CEFA - An exhibition organisers network for intensive business contacts in Central and Southeastern Europe

CEFA - Central European Fair Alliance was founded in January 1995. To make Central and Southeastern Europe a stronger venue for trade fairs and exhibitions of international significance, and one which extends beyond mere physical borders 24 members have joined forces in CEFA. Trade fair organisers in Belgrade, Bolzano/Bozen, Brno, Bucharest (Romexpo, Nexidian), Budapest, Budva, Celje (Celjski Sejem, ICM), Chisinau, Klagenfurt, Ljubljana, Munich (Messe München, Gesellschaft für Handwerksmessen), Nitra, Novi Sad, Plovdiv, Pordenone, Skopje, Sofia, Thessaloniki, Tirana, Vienna and Zagreb (CBBS) have decided to meet the process of European integration by working together more closely in the areas of marketing and public relations, exchanging know-how and participating in joint training activities.
The objective of CEFA is to tackle new problems in an age of increased globalisation with future-oriented solutions. European unity has created a new market that offers new diversity, new opportunities and new sales potential. And because it includes countries in central and south eastern Europe, CEFA makes a special contribution to European integration.
CEFA combines marketing and sales expertise based on a record of more than 60 years of organising trade fairs in the region. CEFA works in dozens of languages and provides experience within all cultural contexts found in its members home countries.
More than just joining different country locations for exhibitions under a shared public relations umbrella, CEFA has set up a network for communications, know-how transfer and training to enhance the quality of organisational and marketing services.
CEFA's mission is to help members offer unique, high-quality gateways to business in the growing markets of central and southeastern Europe, turning them into hubs for spreading contacts and contracts throughout the region.

All trade fair participants, i.e. exhibitors and visitors alike, profit from CEFA:

  • Efficient access to international markets
  • Comprehensive information about all 24 member companies
  • Tapping regional markets
  • Greater sales potential for exhibitors
  • Broader range of exhibits for visitors

CEFA's synergies create the gateway to Central and Southeastern Europe.

Basic Information about CEFA: History, Members & Activities 


CEFA Central European Fair Alliance was founded in Vienna in 1995 by ten trade fair organizers based in the Danube-Alps-Adriatic region. The goal of the founding companies was to find ways for a regionally well balanced co-operation and mutual support wherever possible. Most of the founders are still engaged in the network, which has been growing since then to 21 regular members and three associated members in 16 countries.

Currently the 21 regular members are trade fair organizers from Belgrade, Bolzano/Bozen, Brno, Budapest, Budva, Bucharest, Celje, Chisinau, Klagenfurt, Ljubljana, Munich (MMG & GHM), Novi Sad, Nitra, Plovdiv, Pordenone, Skopje, Sofia, Thessaloniki, Tirana and Vienna. The three associated members are located in Bucharest (NEXIDIAN), in Celje (ICM) and in Zagreb (CBBS). Links to all members can be found at www.cefa.biz. With CENTREX a co-operation has been signed in 2004.

The criteria to become a regular member of CEFA are as follows:

  1. Full members have to be organized in UFI (The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, Paris) and have to cover its standards of quality. CEFA is an associated member of UFI since 2008.
  2. CEFA members have to follow strictly the regulations of auditing organizations like FKM, FKM Austria, CENTREX or at least national bodies with similar aims for correct figures in trade fair reports.
  3. Full members have to run a trade fair venue of their own which is located in the CEFA region, as defined by the General Assembly.   

CEFA is a very slim self-help organization without a legal body. It is represented by the President, elected every year among the members by the General Assembly (2015: Jiří Kuliš, CEO of BVV Trade Fairs Brno). The acting President is hosting the Annual Meeting of the CEFA network, the “General Assembly”, in June each year.

The Chairman and the Secretary General are responsible for internal relations. They are elected for three years (current term 2013-2016). Janos Barabas PhD, former Vice President of Hungexpo Budapest took over the position of the Secretary General in January 2015.   

The annual membership fees are billed and administered by the Treasurer (Meika Hausner, Reed Exhibitions Austria in Vienna). Each year at the General Assembly the treasurer has to present the balance, which has to be attested by the auditor (Norbert Schmidt, BVV Trade Fairs Brno). Treasurer and auditor are elected for three year terms.

CEFA activities are hosted by the members. The Secretary General is looking for sponsors among the members to support the events, as e.g. the Steering Committee Meeting once a year and the yearly seminar. Every CEFA member appoints one person to represent its company in the Steering Committee. In this working unit the actions to be taken are defined and proposals for additional activities are submitted to the General Assembly.

One of the most important and prominent of CEFA’s regular events is the CPS “CEFA Professionals Seminar”, which was launched in 2004. Once a year it gathers junior managers and members of the middle management who are “High Potentials” to offer them professional topics from the trade fair business. The idea is to learn and network with colleagues from different countries and different company cultures at an early stage of their career. Co-operating CENTREX members are included in this offer. In 2014 TIF Helexpo Thessaloniki hosted the CPS (“B2B Exhibition Business 2020 – How to increase value for our clients?”). A CPS is mostly linked to a university; that enables CEFA to hand out a special certificate to every participant.

Another format of CEFA events has been launched in 2008: The “CEFA Experts Meeting CEM”. The goal is to deepen the knowledge of the members’ specialists. Lectures and presentations are given by CEFA members and experts of the selected topics. To secure an open debate and a good chance for establishing personal contacts, CEM is restricted to CEFA members only. The evaluation of the first CEM (Implementation of web-based tools in trade fair business) showed clearly a vote for follow-up events. After IEC had hosted the CEM 2009 in Sofia (Interaction of fairs/exhibitions with side events), Reed Exhibitions Vienna the CEM 2010 (Lost in the Digital Desert? Media & PR in a Profound Transformation), MCG the CEM 2011 in Graz (Human Resources Development), Hungexpo the CEM 2012 in Budapest (Danube Strategy of the European Union - EUSDR), Skopje Fair the CEM 2013 on “Green Venues”; the latest edition took place 2014 in Ljubljana on “Web-Shops, online Booking Systems, Data Management: How to deal with these subjects in the exhibition industry?” – hosted by GR Gospodarsko razstavišče.

The General Assembly 2014 decided to pool CEFA´s seminar activities in future to one extended CPS per year. The first edition in this format will be organized together with IFES (International Federation of Exhibition and Event Services) on the occasion of the Expo 2015 in Milan (Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”) – hosted by Fiera Pordenone.

Next to such training measures, it is a central aim of CEFA to create trust among the member organizations – a prerequisite for establishing useful co-operation projects. There are quite a few examples that prove success in that respect. CEFA members are obliged to assist each other – at least in sectors where they are not competitors -, also in traditional marketing activities like presentations or press conferences. The exchange of information booths – mostly on a barter basis – belongs to such activities, too. In some cases even the short time exchange of staff has already been practiced.

CEFA is also interested to get linked into programmes and tenders of the European Union. This can be done only by the co-operation of individual members in combination with partners like Chambers of Commerce or State Agencies. To foster such initiatives, CEFA has been doing lobby work in Brussels several times (e.g. by a reception for representatives of the EU Commission and the European Parliament in November 2007). The CEFA network was represented at all “Annual Forums” of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (ESDR) and presented itself as a stakeholder of that macro-regional strategy at the latest Annual Forum (June 2014)  in Vienna.   CBBS Zagreb, an associated member of CEFA, is listed in Brussels as an official lobbyist and is tracing European affairs and programmes. NEXIDIAN in Bucharest is also engaged in this field and well connected with facility management associations in Europe.

CEFA is an open network, accessible for every applicant fulfilling the criteria mentioned above. It is however expected that this applicant strongly supports the CEFA ideals and aims, and is willing to play an active part.