While the local construction market in Italy remains stagnant, foreign activity by Italian construction companies keeps growing at a steady pace. In 2014, the amount of revenue they generated outside their home country rose by more than €750 million, up 8.6% compared with the previous year, to reach €9.5 billion.
The following is an interview about the Italian participation in Project Lebanon 2015.
For how many years has Italy been participating at Project Lebanon?
The Italian Trade Commission (ICE/ITA) was one of the first Italian official bodies to participate at the early editions of the exhibition with an official pavilion. This year marks our 9th participation since Project Lebanon started in the early nineties. Italy did not directly participate in some editions, but ICE was always there to support individual Italian participation and Lebanese agents of Italian products. In this edition, ICE/ITA is participating directly by organizing and coordinating the Italian Pavilion. There are 15 Italian exhibitors in Project Lebanon 2015, compared to 13 in last year’s edition. In addition, the Italian Pavilion in 2015 is covering a larger area with a total space of 250 square meters, a 75% increase with respect to last year.
What are the prevalent and most popular products you have under your pavilion? Are you going to market any innovative products this year?
The prevalent and most popular Italian products that will be exhibited in Project Lebanon 2015, are: interior design specializing in comprehensive interior detailing and space planning, masonry, painters and sculptors tools, engineering renewable energy, hardware articles for furniture, water treatment, filtration, demineralization, panels, boards, chipboards, laminates, MDF, melamine faced, machines and systems for cutting aluminum, colors and paints, steel structures for civil buildings, industrial and commercial air-conditioning, split and multi-split, portable units, dehumidifiers, water cooled air conditioners, aluminum frames, shutters, blinds, hydraulics, supply for the furniture industry, marble blocs, slabs and cut to size tiles.
Who is your target audience, and did you find that the pavilion is an efficient way of marketing your companies and products, and finding leads or closing deals?
The target we aim at varies from developers, design firms, construction companies and contractors. Project Lebanon is one of the most important commercial showcases, not only for Lebanon but also for the Middle East region, as the products which enter through the Lebanese market are triangulated in neighboring countries, particularly those of the GCC. That is why even if no deals are closed during the exhibition, Project Lebanon is a privileged meeting platform for manufacturers, architects, designers, building contractors and building construction professionals.
How is Italy’s trade relation with Lebanon, and has the worldwide recession affected it?
In 2014, Italian exports still account for a market share of 8% with a value of USD 1.6 billion, prevailing over the other competing countries. Italy holds the position of first country supplier in Europe and second in the world behind China. Compared to 2013, Italian exports decreased by 8% in value. The decline in our exports is almost exclusively due to the significant drop in exports of petroleum products, which alone have decreased by about 20%. Apart from the performance of the oil sector, statistical data show a rise across almost all product categories, with the most significant increase in transport equipment, plastic products and rubber, food and chemicals. In fact, excluding oil, Italian exports would have increased by 3% over the previous year. Crisis hit Italy strongly and pushed for companies to look for new markets and more exports. Lebanon was one of the few countries that was not directly involved in the international financial crunch, and therefore liquidity in the country remained very high, in the benefit mainly of infrastructural and real estate projects offering real opportunities for Italian products well known for quality and design.