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March 29, 2009

ANALYSIS:Research reveals affects of downturn on global exhibition industry

More than 60% of exhibition professionals across the globe experienced a drop in business last year due to the economic crisis and expect the decline to continue to grow during 2009, according to a recent survey.

The statistics come from the first Economic Crisis Barometer study of the exhibition industry by UFI, the global exhibition industry association.

Impact of recession

The independent survey has been designed to assess the impact of the global downturn over time. The results are based on replies collected from UFI members – all exhibition industry professional – in 44 countries during January and February 2009. Also included are replies to an identical survey collected by SISO, the Society of Independent Show Organisers, from its members in the USA.

The points covered in the online questionnaire ranged from an assessment of business fluctuations prior to 2009, to forecasts of business recovery expectations.

Of the 62% of those surveyed who confirmed a decrease in business prior to 31 December 2008, directly attributable to the economic downturn, only 38% indicated that the decrease represented a slide of 10% or more in gross turnover.

The report suggests that this is probably a reflection of the cyclical nature of exhibition business, which requires exhibitors to confirm their event participation an average of six months prior to an event. This is consistent with the replies of more than 60% of those surveyed, who anticipate turnover decreases will continue to grow steadily over the next year.

Adding value

The survey revealed a great deal of uncertainty as to the longer-term impact of the current economic crisis. This was expressed consistently across the various global regions.

Survey participants did note that the impact was often dependent on the health of the industry sector represented by the respective scheduled exhibitions. Not surprisingly, tradeshows in the construction and automobile sectors were often singled out as being particularly hard hit.

In response to the pressure placed on the exhibition business, many of those surveyed have focused on providing increased value-added services to both exhibitors and visitors alike. While discounts were not at the top of the list of incentives being provided by exhibition professionals, custom payment options and tightly negotiated service costs provide the basis for a more flexible approach toward sales and pricing policies.

Putting people first
Visitors are also at the heart of many incentive programmes, with exhibition venues working closely with local tourism and government bodies to promote events and facilitate trade show attendance.

The exhibition industry shares cost-cutting objectives with the rest of the business community, with freezes on recruiting, travel, new event launches and delayed investment projects at the fore. The cancellation of traditionally successful exhibitions and reductions in staff personnel have not yet been added to the agendas of most organisations.

Confidence that the global exhibition industry will experience an economic recovery after 2009 was expressed by over 80% of the survey’s participants, with many seeing 2011 as the real kick-off point for a more confident business environment.

UFI and SISO will conduct the next survey in April 2009. Future survey results will be posted on the UFI website at www.ufi.org in the publications/surveys and studies section.

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