Rumblings about the high cost of attending EBACE in Geneva surfaced late last year with a very public letter from Patrick Hansen, CEO of Luxaviation Group, one of the world’s largest business aviation services companies, in which he explained why his company would no longer participate.

A number in the industry have agreed privately with his views, he told ShowNews.

Citing high costs of both the show and the city itself, Hansen said EBACE was no longer an efficient venue to market to potential customers. And, he explained, it had become confused as to whom it served.

Many remember the annual EBAA convention, before the NBAA became involved, as a social gathering. It still is, but along the way has attracted manufacturers, suppliers, services, operations vendors customers for their wares.

“At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, why do people come and why should people spend money?” Hansen asked. “If it's to spend money just on a social event, that's perfectly fine. That's why I'm actually going, and that costs me a few hundred euros. But, do I need to have a huge presence there, from a marketing point of view, from a corporate point of view? For sure, not.”

NBAA President & CEO Ed Bolen acknowledges Hansen’s opinions, and replies:

“As we always do, NBAA and EBAA have and continued to work hard every year to have a business aviation event that is fresh and relevant and that does a multitude of things including putting buyers and sellers together, promoting a positive image of business aviation, creating strong educational sessions that promote safety, security, professionalism, and that inspire a new generation of leaders.

As for EBACE as a venue to meet customers, “We have surveys that show that last year's show increased in value for exhibitors and attendees alike,” Bolen says. “We had 27 large exhibitors last year, we've got 27 large exhibitors this year, and a sold-out static display. EBACE is one of the great aviation events in the world.”

Yes, Geneva is an expensive venue, Bolen allows – “But as a general rule great cities command premium prices.

“Nevertheless, we do work with housing companies, with the city, with Palexpo to try to make sure we encourage the housing companies, the hotels and so forth, to understand that this is an important event and all the exhibitors and attendees should be valued. The city has been adding to the number of hotel rooms. We've also seen the advent of such as Airbnb becoming an option, and we know that there are different strategies that companies can and do use to try to maintain prices.”

Could EBACE move to a different venue? Bolen says the organizers constantly evaluate options in case, for example, Geneva wasn’t available. “What we have found is that some of the original things about Geneva, being a great international city that routinely pulls people from all over the world, has world class facilities, entertainment and so forth, continue to be in many ways unmatched by some of the other locations that we have looked at.”

In his letter, Hansen said the time has come for EBACE to change. “The event must respond to economic realities, and EBACE should ask itself if an event in this format is truly representing the many facets of business aviation.”

“Finally, digitization often has the effect that exhibitions and conferences are ill-suited events to engage with clients,” Hansen wrote. “EBACE is simply not the place where clients are anymore.

“EBACE certainly should continue existing ... but you must reinvent it for the event to be having a positive value to the industry.”

Hansen told ShowNews he finds more marketing value at smaller events, but beyond that… “I’m certainly not going to tell you my marketing strategy.”

Luxaviation Group, based in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, offers charter, aircraft management, fixed base operations, maintenance, aircraft transactions and other services. It operates 270 aircraft and employs 1,700 employees worldwide.