All good things come to an end and so does the career of the man who has carried Interclean for the past 16 years towards a growing international success, Rob den Hertog. His final year has turned from what was supposed to be the best year ever for Interclean, to a year of survival and innovating the trade show to keep being the platform it always has been for the cleaning and hygiene industry. Before Rob hands over the stick to his successor Robert Stelling, we will look back together with Rob how Interclean has developed over the years.
Rob den Hertog started working for the RAI in 1992 and became Jos van den Berg’s successor in 2004, when he retired. And after 16 years the key player in Interclean’s success gets to retire as well. In eight editions, the exhibition grew to be the biggest trade show in the cleaning industry and went from 27,000 to 33,000 visitors. The number of exhibitors even grew from 525 to 900. “Our trade show is recognised around the globe and has a lot to offer for the professional cleaning industry. If you can’t find it there, you won’t find it anywhere.”
The raison d'être of RAI Amsterdam
The exhibition has become more international over the past decades and Rob still remembers his first impression. ‘’I was used to 200 or 300 exhibitors, so I thought 525 exhibitors was a very big number. The exhibition was very big and international. I went to exhibitions in America, China and travelled through Europe. A great experience. I didn’t know exactly what was going on in the industry at the time. I am still trying to meet many parties in the cleaning industry, to listen and learn from them. I try to take what I have learned with me from every exhibition and I ask myself: What is important for the industry and the visitors and what should we see back of that at Interclean?’’ It was Rob’s job to take home the information and translate it into meaningful new event elements that would increase satisfaction, and end up in returning exhibitors and visitors. ‘’I am raised with the belief that working together with the industry brings more than being on your own.''
The international character is Interclean’s biggest asset. At Interclean Amsterdam 2018, almost 30.000 visits were from outside of the Benelux, 5,800 visitors were from the Netherlands, 1,600 were from Belgium and 100 were from Luxembourg. Interclean is a dedicated cleaning exhibition. When I started, 25% of the visitors were distributors, now it is 50%, and they are coming from 140 countries. The main visitors used to be cleaning contractors, now the distributors are the main visitors. ‘’We are also beginning to welcome more facility managers. Our offer is really complete. If you cannot find what you are looking for at Interclean, then it’s just not there. That is what makes Interclean a great success. We are able to create a partnership with all the market leaders in the cleaning industry, adds Rob.”
A glance into the future
The first-ever Interclean Amsterdam Online that took place from 3-6 November 2020 marked the shift of rethinking our future. The current pandemic is changing the world making in-person events impossible for the moment, and digitalisation is taking the lead and is moving us forward. The four days of Interclean online live sessions have shown us that connecting buyers and sellers online is possible and also that the desire for an in-person event is still very much alive.
‘’Last year was a rollercoaster with ups and downs. I want to thank and congratulate the whole team, because behind the scenes there are perhaps a hundred people working to ensure that we can still get together in this way. Cleaning is more relevant than ever thanks to COVID-19. That is why it is so important that we still come together via this platform. ”
While Rob is taking a step back, he realizes that the team is ready for it. ‘’Robert Stelling has been with Interclean since 2012 and has already successfully managed several exhibitions for us. He is now fully in charge and behind the scenes. I will be available for advice whenever he needs it, but I am sure he will manage perfectly’’
Time to say goodbye
This year, Rob will start enjoying his pre-pension and will remain on board as an advisor for RAI general management, but does have one last personal message for to share with you:
‘’In the past months, cleaning has finally been recognised as an essential service. Many hospitals and care facilities would not have been able to operate without the cleaning services performed by the specialised cleaners working for our contractors. Just by using the right protocols, products and solutions - and frequent training, the cleaners were and will be ready to deliver their essential service to keep the facilities clean and safe.
Our industry can now play an important role in guiding society in a controlled and safe way out of the lockdown. The cleaning sector is and was, ready to fulfil their important role - and that's the best retirement gift I could wish for.
I also wanted to express a huge thank you personally to all those great people in the industry I have met and have the pleasure to work with. Thank you for your trust and cooperation these past decades. Stay safe and healthy!’’
If you haven't had a chance to say goodbye to Rob yet, don't hesitate to send him a message.