The Bologna Children's Book Fair's official attendance numbers are in. Attendance at last week's show was was up 2% over last year, to 26,743. Overseas and foreign attendees were up 15%, hitting 11,752; foreign attendees accounted for 44% of total attendance.
BCBF's exhibition director Elena Pasoli credited the fair's ongoing focus on bringing in more foreign exhibitors for the upswing in foreign attendance. "We have worked hard to include even more countries," she said, suggesting that the Fair's efforts to go further afield—touring its annual Illustrators Exhibition to Asia and running the annual Global Kids Connect conference in New York City—were paying dividends in making the fair more relevant.
Several other factors likely contributed to the jump in overseas guests, including rebounding publishing markets in countries that had previously cut back on exhibitors. These include Spain—with Catalonia's Guest of Honor turn this year bringing several hundred attendees to the Fair—as well as Greece and Portugal, which had notably more attendees. A favorable exchange rate between the Euro and other global currencies likely helped bolster the numbers as well, especially for attendees from the Americas and Asia.
Pasoli, who assumed the role of exhibition director last year, also added some new touches to the fair. One thing she did was bring back a focus on young illustrators and publishers. A new "Illustrator's Survival Corner" was created on the show floor, which offered a variety of services to up-and-coming illustrators, from portfolio critiques to seminars on how to pitch publishers.
"We also received a lot of positive feedback about the stronger emphasis we put on the links between creativity and technology, which was one of our main issues this year," Pasoli said. Among the first-time exhibitors in this area were Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo and Milan-based notebook producer Moleskine. The latter was showing off its Smart Writing Set, a bluetooth-enabled pen that digitizes writing so it can be sent to a smartphone or tablet.
The 2018 Bologna International Children’s Book Fair is scheduled for March 26–29, with China as the Guest of Honor.