UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, has reported
from its latest 31st edition of its flagship Global Exhibition
Barometer research, that profiles from 19 markets and regions show that
revenue for 2023 already represents 97% of those in 2019.
Huge potential in growing markets
“After China’s reopening early this year, the pandemic is now
completely in our industry’s rear-view mirror, as we are tracking levels
of business activities already higher than in 2019 in a growing number
of markets. Creating a ‘new normal’ in front of us, the industry is
evolving both on digital products & services and on sustainability.
New technologies like generative artificial intelligence applications
are being explored, while staffing remains a key concern” said Kai
Hattendorf, managing director and CEO at UFI.
This edition of UFI’s bi-annual industry survey was completed in July
2023, and comprises data from 351 companies in 61 countries and
regions. The study also includes outlooks and analysis for 19 focus
countries and regions – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia,
France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia,
South Africa, Spain, Thailand, the UAE, the UK, and the USA – and five
more aggregated regional zones.
Operations picking up
The level of operations has picked up since 2022: the percentage of
companies reporting "normal activity" increases from 72% in December
2022 to 79% on average for the first half of 2023 and almost 90% for
most months of the second half of 2023 (December being as usual a month
with less activity in most places).
Also, the number of companies reporting "reduced activity" dropped
from 20% in December 2022 to 16% in the first half of 2023 to 12% in the
second half of 2023.
Countries expected to experience the highest levels of "normal
activity" in the second half of 2023 are Australia (97%), the UK (95%),
Italy and the USA (94%), Brazil (92%), and Argentina (90%). In China,
the expectation of normal activity has risen significantly, with 74% of
companies anticipating it compared to only 29% six months ago.
Money in the making
2022 saw a great "bounce back" of exhibitions, with companies from
most markets getting revenues close to their 2019 levels. This positive
trend follows into 2023, with companies in almost all regions expecting
to reach or even exceed their 2019 revenue levels.
Globally, the revenues for 2022 and 2023 represent 78% and 97% of the
2019 levels respectively, indicating a progressive full recovery. This
recovery now appears faster than expected 6 months ago, when companies
were expecting to reach 91% of the 2019 levels.
Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Greece, Spain, and Australia have
performed well above the average in 2022. The United Arab Emirates, the
UK, and India are expected to join this group of high performers in
2023, demonstrating growth prospects for the ongoing year.
In terms of operating profits compared to 2019 levels, around half of
the companies are declaring an increase or stable level for 2022 and
their proportion is increasing to seven out of 10 for 2023. Among them,
the number of companies declaring an increase is higher now than it was
expected six months ago: 30% for 2022 (compared to 24% six months ago)
and 37% for 2023 (compared to 31% previously).
Globally, only 2% of respondents expect a loss for 2023, a notable
improvement compared to 11% reported for 2022. The highest proportion of
companies expecting a loss in 2023 is declared in Germany (11%) and
· Internal management issues – as the most pressing business
issue declared in this survey, within this segment, 61% of respondents
selected HR issues, 50% selected business model adjustments and 31%
· The impact of digitalisation comes as the second most
important issue globally (17% of answers), followed by competition with
other media (15%), the state of the economy in home market (14%), and
then global economic developments comes next (12%, compared to 15% in
the previous edition).
· The latest results also confirm that the impact of the
COVID-19 pandemic on the business is now one of the least pressing
issues, as only 3% of companies mark it as one of the most important
(compared to 5% six months ago and 11% twelve months ago).
An analysis of the trend around top business issues from 2016-2023 identifies several shifts:
· Impact of digitalisation and competition with other media
rank as main issues, with 32% of answers (compared to 12% in 2016).
· Global economic developments and the state of the economy in
the home market have dropped from being the main issue in 2016 (44% of
answers) to 26% in 2023
· The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the business fell from 29% in 2020 to 3% in 2023.
· Internal management challenges has increased from 13% in 2016 to 21% in 2023.
· Sustainability/climate and other stakeholders’ issues have more than doubled from 4% of answers in 2016 to 9% in 2023
Factors for business development
Elements that are expected to have the greatest impact on their company’s business development in the next five years:
· Globally, changing customer expectations are expected to have
the highest impact in the next five years, with 68% of respondents
considering it significant. This applies to all regions, except for
North America where staffing is the leading answer.
· Some 54% of respondents believe that staffing will have a
huge impact on business development. Besides North America, it is as
well considered to be the key factor in Germany, Australia, and India.
· Around 45% of respondents expect that digitalisation will
greatly influence business development, especially in Spain, Argentina,
Colombia, and Malaysia.
· Climate-related regulations is expected to be the key factor
in France and the UK; and for Italy it will be “de-globalisation”.
· 64% of respondents have added digital services/products (such
as apps, digital advertising, and digital signage) to their existing
exhibition offerings. This is especially the case in Europe (67%).
· 55% of respondents globally indicated they have digitised
internal processes and workflows (compared to 49% one year ago), and
this number is higher in Central and South America (67%).
· 27% of respondents stated that they have developed a digital
or transformation strategy for exhibitions and products, and this number
is higher in the Middle East and Africa (38%).
· 33% reported they have developed a digital transformation
strategy for the whole company and 21% have launched digital products
not directly related to existing exhibitions. On average, 21% have
created a designated function for digital (eg: chief digital officer)
within senior management, this is especially the case in the Middle East
and Africa (35%).
Future exhibition formats
· 91% of respondents (compared to 87% a year ago and 78% two
years ago) agree that “COVID-19 confirms the value of face-to-face
events” (with 68% stating “Yes, for sure” and 23% stating “Most
· 21% (compared to 31% and 46% previously) believe there will
be “Less international ‘physical’ exhibitions and, overall, less
participants” (with 2% stating “Yes, for sure”, 19% stating “Most
probably” and 24% remaining unsure).
· 56% (compared to 61% and 76% previously) believe there is “A
push towards hybrid events, more digital elements at events” (with 12%
stating “Yes, for sure”, 44% stating “Most probably” and 21% remaining
· 6% (compared to 6% and 11% previously) agree that “Virtual
events are replacing physical events”, while 10% are unsure and 84%
state “Not sure at all” or “Definitely not”.
The next UFI Global Exhibition Barometer survey will be conducted in January 2024.