After graduating in history, in 2004 she started working in leisure tourism as a tour operator. This experience led her to join the Incoming Office of Riva del Garda Fierecongressi in 2007. For more than 4 years she worked as a management assistant, acquiring a deep knowledge of all the company’s activities, including institutional relations. In 2012, she began working as a freelancer in the tourism and cultural sector, while continuing to collaborate with RivaFC and contributing to the organisation and creation of the ‘Friends of Expo Riva Schuh’ association. In 2016, Stefania Rosa became a full member of the congress centre. In mid-2020 she was put in charge of Research & Development in the new Innovation Area. Here she explains to us the projects and initiatives for the next editions of Expo Riva Schuh – Gardabags. 

What do you do as R&D Manager in the new Innovation Area of RivaFC? 
“Together with Patrizia Battisti and Elena Burdese, who work with me in the R&D department, we identify new services and introduce product innovations, gathering information from the shoe market. At the same time, we are coordinating an analytical study of the event’s brand identity and supporting the sales staff in terms of exhibitors and visitors, with a new tool aimed at introducing a digitalisation process for the fair, i.e. the Swapcard marketplace.” 

How and why did the idea of creating an Innovation Office within Expo Riva Schuh come about?
“The Innovation Area was created within Riva del Garda Fierecongressi S.p.A. and not exclusively within the Expo Riva Schuh trade fair. This new area, divided into Management Control and Research & Development, is where, at an embryonic level, insights, ideas and influences from the market, but also from within the company, are analysed. The goal is to introduce new features to existing products, or to create new services to support events and shows on the calendar. The challenge, which is even more interesting, is to create new businesses and to increase the number of events on the calendar, such as trade fairs run by third-party organisers or national and international conferences produced jointly with bodies such as universities and research centres.” 

What is your opinion on the current trade fair landscape? What strengths should be maintained and what weaknesses of the ‘trade fair’ concept should be reinforced?
“The central concept and strength of the ‘trade fair’ is the theme of the meeting, intended both as a meeting between exhibitors and visitors, and within the category itself: this is essential in order to be able to compare notes on one’s own market. The fair also offers the unique opportunity to concentrate – in a single time and place – countless meetings, an opportunity that is difficult to match in any other business occasion. The second fundamentally important theme is new products and features: it is important for a trade fair to propose relevant trends and product innovation. However, that’s not all: even if some new products and innovations may be far removed and too premature compared to well-established products, it is important for a trade fair to give space to what could represent the future of a given product segment. Those of us who organise trade fairs must therefore not only improve the physical experience associated with the event (i.e. new layouts, services, etc.), but also and above all promote opportunities where participants can meet and interact, and to give space to everything that is new, enhancing all the facets. At the same time, the organiser must increasingly work with the market, working alongside its users all year round, and not only during the physical event. There must be an ongoing and evolving dialogue with exhibitors and visitors.”

Can you give us some examples (even borrowed from other sectors) of what can be an inspiration to bring innovation to the trade fair world? 
“A source of inspiration could be the tourism sector, and specifically experiential tourism. I believe that the importance of living an experience, of actively participating in a journey, without being subjected to the tour but becoming a protagonist especially in “doing” it, is an interesting concept to draw on when organising a trade fair. Not only visitors, but also exhibitors, can experience a well-defined, step-by-step itinerary, and this allows the trade fair to become not only a business event, but an all-round experience that remains in the memory.” 

What initiatives have you put in place for the next editions?
“First of all, we have developed the Swapcard application (which can be used both on PC and mobile device). It is a tool that has allowed us to organise January’s Home Edition by activating a series of initiatives and activities dedicated to relations between buyers and exhibiting companies (24-hour appointment diary, with chats and video calls directly on the platform; new product catalogue that allows buyers to search for and receive feedback on new suppliers, using an artificial intelligence algorithm), and to stream live the rich programme of speeches and testimonials (also available on demand) of Expo Riva Show, the event within the event.
With Swapcard, a real marketspace, we give our community the chance to maintain existing relationships and, above all, to create new ones, before and after the two annual editions of Expo Riva Schuh – Gardabags.
We have also thought about creating hybrid stands that allow the virtual presence at the fair of exhibitors who, due to the pandemic, cannot physically get to Italy during the event.
A help desk was also set up for Italian exhibitors wishing to access the contributions made by the Government as part of the Buyer Program for the Gardabags area. 
Other aspects of the fair that we have considered include starting the event on Sunday, instead of Saturday, the continuation of a calendar of online events (Live Talks and Showroom) and roadshows (Around the world) throughout the year.
A particularly important issue is customer care. I believe it is essential to maintain constant relations with our exhibitors and visitors, to listen to their needs and suggestions in order to improve the RivaFC offer as a whole. This close relationship with our interlocutors allows us to become their partner in identifying the most important issues to be addressed and brought into the event itself.”