EXPONOR - Porto International Fair is a member of AEP - Associação Empresarial de Portugal - Câmara de Comércio e Indústria (Portuguese Business Association - Chamber of Commerce and Industry), which was founded in 1849 in Porto as the Associação Industrial Portuense (Porto Industrial Association) by José Vitorino Damásio and other businessmen from the region.

With sound experience in organising trade fairs, EXPONOR is continuing the long tradition of the AEP which goes back over 150 years. Indeed, promoted the first exhibition in 1856. Five years later, it was responsible for the 1861 Porto Industrial Exhibition which took place in the Porto Stock Exchange building, comprising eight halls and galleries which exhibited state-of-the-art of contemporary industrial production.

However, it was in 1865 that the Association revealed its real talent for exhibitions when it organised the International Industrial Exposition of Porto and the Iberian Peninsula in the iron and glass premises of the local Crystal Palace built specifically for this purpose. Apart from the official visit of king Luis and the Portuguese royal family, the Industrial Exposition enjoyed the presence of 3,139 exhibitors; of which 499 were French, 265 German, 107 English, 89 Belgian, 62 Brazilian, 24, Spanish, 16 Danish as well as representatives from Russia, Holland, Turkey, the United States of America and Japan.

Over the years, the Association became involved in the organisation of countless fairs in Porto, Lisbon and the former Portuguese colonies.

1964 saw the creation of a specific department dedicated to the realisation of industrial events. 74 fairs were realised between 1968 and 1986, attracting 5,200 exhibitors and almost 2 million visitors. These events took place at the Sports Pavilion site, which had in the meantime taken over from the old Crystal Palace.

EXPONOR’s Exhibibiton Centre was inaugurated in Leça da Palmeira – Matosinhos in 1987, with 20-thousand-sq. m of covered area. Three years later, the first stage of an expansion programme was undertaken with the enlargement of the congress centre and the construction of another pavilion. The spectacular growth in the number of trade fairs and exhibition area occupied in the years that followed forced EXPONOR to grow and implement a great many programmes to improve and expand the physical space.

Betting on the internationalisation of trade fairs and its activity, EXPONOR joined
UFI – The Global Association for the Exhibition Industry in 1991. This is the leading international institution in the trade fair and exhibition sector. In 1998 it began to organise events outside Portugal, staging the first fairs in Ourense (Galicia, Spain) and Praia, (Cape Verde). In a period of increasing globalisation of economies and as the relations between Mercosul and the EU were coming to play a more and more significant part, EXPONOR BRASIL was created in 1999. Headquartered in São Paulo, it organises trade fairs and exhibitions in South America.

It was also in 1999 that EXPONOR began to implement its new Quality Management System that was finally awarded the ISO 9001 standard by APCER (Portuguese Certification Association) in August 2001. As such, EXPONOR became the first trade fair organiser to boast this award in Portugal and one of the few in this field in the world.

In 2002 EXPONOR joined forces with the two leading organisers of national trade fairs and founded the Associação Portuguesa de Feiras e Congressos.

EXPONOR recently adopted a new business model, with separation of the real estate and events organisation / management strands. The fixed assets of the EXPONOR Exhibition Centre were incorporated into the first fixed capital real estate investment company (SICAFI) to operate in Portugal, named NEXPONOR, admitted for listing on the NYSE Alternext with over 65 million euros raised.

Alongside this, a new company was created with the sole management rights of the Exhibition Centre and full rights over the trademarks and titles related to the fairs and events owned by AEP. Although the fairs retain a key role, the 'new' EXPONOR goes further: it is a true business platform for companies, offering a range of solutions for creating commercial partnerships. It considers not only participation in trade fairs and specialised technical events at the EXPONOR Exhibition Centre and elsewhere in the country, but internationalisation actions, too.

Positioning itself as the strongest ally of companies in terms of opening up marketing channels, attracting new customers and increasing sales, EXPONOR is also a centre for disseminating knowledge and innovation.