2020: the Annus horribilis for trade exhibitions

Mit dem #B-SAFE4business Village zeigt die Koelnmesse wie Messen in Corona-Zeiten funktionieren. / With the #B-SAFE4business-village Koelnmesse shows how trade fairs work in times of corona.

PARIS, France: UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, has released the latest edition of its flagship Global Barometer research, which takes the pulse of the industry. The results highlight the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the exhibition industry worldwide, in 2020. 2020 is the year that will surely go down as one of the worst for the global exhibition industry.

Globally, between April and August 2020, more than half of all companies reported no activity. This situation changed from September, where the majority of companies declared some operations, at reduced levels for most. Looking ahead to 2021, the share of companies expecting a return to “normal” activity is expected to grow from 10% in January to 37% in June.

These results vary depending on region, and are primarily driven by the “re-opening date” of exhibitions. In all regions, most companies expect both local and national exhibitions to re-open by the end of June 2021, with international exhibitions resuming in the second half of the year. Company operations also include, while face-to-face events are not possible, working into the development of digital solutions.

When asked what element would most help with the “bounce back” of exhibitions, the majority of companies, ranked “readiness of exhibiting companies and visitors to participate again” (64%), “lift of current travel restrictions” (63%) and “lift of current public policies that apply locally to exhibitions” (52%) as key factors.

The research found that 44% of companies benefitted from some level of public financial support; for the majority this related to less than 10% of their overall 2019 costs. 54% of companies had to reduce their workforce, with half of these by more than 25%. 10% of companies will have to consider permanently ceasing operations if there are no events for the next six months.

As expected, the “impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the business” is considered the most important business issue (stated by 29% of companies, a 2% increase on six months ago). The “impact of digitalisation” (11%) and “competition with other media” (7%) have also increased (+1% and +2% respectively), while the “state of the economy in the home market” (19%) and “global economic developments” (16%) have decreased, but remain amongst the top three concerns.

In terms of future exhibition formats, global results indicate that 64% (compared to 57% six months ago) are confident that “COVID-19 confirms the value of face-to-face events”, indicating an expectation that the sector will bounce back quickly.

“The message from the global industry is clear: quite simply, 2020 was horrible. The pandemic stopped most activities around the world for several months, and, globally, our industry’s revenue dropped by almost three quarters. But, as the Global Barometer shows, 2021 should see a significant bounce back, with global revenues expected to double, pending markets re-opening and clarity on regulations. We will ‘build back’ even better, and while the industry will remain, primarily, a face-to-face marketing channel, digital offers will evolve with new patterns,” says Kai Hattendorf, UFI Managing Director and CEO.

The latest edition of UFI’s bi-annual industry survey was concluded in December 2020, and includes data from 457 companies in 64 countries and regions.

The study also includes outlooks and analysis for 24 countries and regions – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the UAE, the UK and the US – as well as an additional five aggregated regional zones.

↑ Back to top