Interzum and Ligna are the Mecca for manufacturers of the built environment. If you haven’t been before, it’s probably about time you thought about it. Only a few weeks away now; the twin fairs represent your best value for an overseas business trip. Is it too late? Well, not really if you’re prepared to spend a few hours planning.

Interzum will be held 16th to 19th May and Ligna the following week 22nd to 26th May 2017. The two shows are held back to back to attract the most numbers of overseas visitors; and they come in their thousands. Almost a hundred thousand visitors attend Ligna and just short of sixty thousand attend Interzum, making these fairs the most visited in the World for the built environment. These shows are where the latest products are released and this is where you will see the future.

And it’s not too late to go, provided of course you already have a passport. Exhibitors will book their 2019 hotels when they walk out the door this year so there’s always a shortage of rooms available in the host city and surrounding local areas. Room rates can double or even triple when there’s a show on so it’s very expensive to stay in the city. Early April this year there were fewer than five rooms left at most hotels in Cologne (Interzum) and even if you could get one, a four-star hotel is going for a minimum of $400 a night and even a hostel will cost just short of $300.

In Hannover (Ligna) the story gets worse. A four star hotel near the show will cost $600 a night but there were some apartments near the showground still available for around $250 a night. Airfares to Frankfurt with Qantas are around $1,700 per person return and travel insurance will take this up to just under $2,000. All up, at the low end of the scale, two weeks will cost around $8,000 inclusive of local transport and meals. At the high end, two weeks could cost well over $10,000. It’s not a budget trip for a small kitchen manufacturer.

But it can be as many visitors are finding ways of cutting the costs and getting more out of their trip. Consider staying in one of the many small German towns and your nightly accommodation comes down to just over $100 a night but there are compromises. If you are looking for night life, the city is the place to be. If you’re looking for something a little more pedestrian, consider this. Fly to Frankfurt instead of Cologne and you will save $350 off your airfare. Spend this saving on a 15-day German rail pass ($650 2nd class) and all your internal transport is taken care of. You can now afford to find accommodation in one of the many small towns surrounding the fair locations.

To find out where these towns are you will need google earth and the Swiss rail website or the German site and both sites are excellent. Using google earth, locate a town close to Cologne, let’s say Wuppertal. Key in to the rail website Wuppertal to Kolnmesse (Cologne) and your travel date and you will find there is a connection and that it takes no more than forty minutes. This is a nice little train ride and you will get to see some of the German scenery while you travel. Staying in Wuppertal (for instance) will cost just over $100 a night so you will save around $200 a night for the fifteen days of the two shows. It certainly adds up. For the Ligna show in Hannover you should try Minden or Braunschweig, both less than an hour or even less on a high speed train. Hildesheim is 40 minutes and the hotels in all three of these locations are similarly priced at just over $100 a night. Almost all German hotels include breakfast and free Wi-Fi in the price so it’s really good value.

Now you need a hotel so on google earth; zoom into the town centre and look for the railway station, or do a search for the station. Within a short walk of the Hildesheim station there are six hotels, one of them a Novotel. You will be better off in Minden or Braunschweig because they are further away but if you don’t mind the train travel, you’ll save a lot of money. Germany has excellent rail networks and the fairs are easy to get to. The trains are clean; usually on-time and frequent. You’ll be able to plan each day before you leave Australia.

Buy a ticket for one show and the other will be free, or just visit the show you are most interested in. While you are in Germany though, you might as well do both. The rail journey from Cologne to Hannover is only about three hours so you will get most of the intervening weekend to have a look around. Now you have a rail pass, the travel is taken care of. Just remember that on high-speed trains such as ICE or the InterCity trains (IC) you may need to reserve a seat if you have a first class ticket, or are travelling in peak times. Try and catch a regional express (a train with a designation RE) and there won’t be a problem.

These shows are a wonderful experience and well worth the effort going. You might think you have everything figured out with your business but as the saying goes “You don’t know what you don’t know” and there will probably be things on display you’ve never thought existed, or didn’t think was relevant. Once you see all the new designs, products, equipment and technology and see them all working and in context, you may have a different view. And finally, if you do go, let your preferred supplier know you’re going so they can slot in a time to meet with you. If you can’t make it this time, plan for 2019.