The 37th edition of MIDO closed in Milan on May 7 on a buoyant note. Visitor numbers were up by 9 percent to 46,000, and 60 percent of them came from outside Italy. After two years of stagnation, the number of Italian visitors was up by 17.9 percent while foreign attendance was up by 3.5 percent. Foreigners were more numerous on the opening day, while more Italians were present on Sunday.

The net exhibition area at the new fairground at Rho-Pero was 15.2 percent bigger at 53,000 square meters and the 1,300 exhibitors were 1.8 percent more than at the previous edition held at the old Milan fairground. The number of foreign exhibitors was up year on year from 69 to 72 percent: with a 13 percent increase, the number of countries represented now totals 43.

The event was good business for ANFAO, the Italian optical industry association that organizes the fair. While fair organizers prefer not to disclose precise figures, with booths costing €205 per square meter, the event is estimated to have brought in more than €10 million in stand rentals alone, not counting registration fees. The next edition will take place from May 9-12 2008.

Unfortunately, the move to the new venue coincided with a lot of labor unrest that made transportation to the show very difficult. A strike by Alitalia on the eve of the fair led to the cancellation of numerous flights to Milan. On the opening day of MIDO, a public transport strike in Milan made access to the fair complicated for many people.

The strike was initially supposed to affect the underground transportation system as well as buses and tramways, but then at the last minute negotiations with the unions led the strikers to keep the underground in motion. As the new fairgrounds are outside Milan, exhibitors and visitors were planning to go there by underground - the terminal station of Rho-Pero is nine stops farther out on the same line from the station that was servicing the old fairground ? but many were not informed about the change of plans and took an expensive taxi instead.

The strike inevitably caused disruption on the roads leading out from the city center, lengthening the time needed to reach destination. For exhibitors and visitors, the worst problem was a series of bottlenecks on the road leading to the fairgrounds, where construction work was still underway. Once they entered the new ultra-modern halls, many visitors had difficulty finding their way around the halls because of the new layout and a certain lack of signage.

Aside from these disturbances, the business climate was excellent. The spirits of many VIP guests were lifted at the end of a long first day by an unusual gala evening given by the organizers on the premises of the fair, reviving a tradition that had been interrupted a few years ago by a show plagued by rainstorms and inundations.

The organizers put on a show, inspired by aviation, where an Italian actor-singer, Luca Barbareschi, and the famous American actress Andie MacDowell revisited 40 years of Italian eyewear. Guests were treated to a presentation of over 100 styles of eyewear by 41 different Italian producers during a fashion show. A similar fashion show was given the night before in an Airbus jet that took some 30 American fashion journalists specialized in fashion and accessories over from New York to visit the fair, at ANFAO's charges.

Cirillo Marcolin ? who runs the eponymous company jointly with his twin brother Maurizio ?announced at the end of the long presentation that he will step down from his position as chairman of MIDO and of ANFAO in 2008. His successor will be appointed by a committee that will be set up in the coming months. Potential candidates include the current deputy chairman, Dan Levi, who owns Visibilia.

The general feeling among exhibitors was one of optimism. Both the majors and some small and medium-sized producers expressed relative satisfaction. The representative of Italy's Belluno eyewear district, Renato Sopracolle, stressed the efforts that producers in his area were making to improve customer service, particularly with regard to delivery times. Though the number of producers in the region has fallen by 22.5 percent to 530 between 2003 and 2006, their combined turnover has grown by 31.5 percent to €1.9 billion over the same period. And after two years during which the workforce declined, 2006 ended up with growth of 9.27 percent.

Italy accounts for 27 percent of a world market estimated by MIDO at a total of €9 billion. In the luxury sector Italy's market share rises to 70-75 percent, as Italian companies license 154 of the 300-odd major luxury brands.