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November 14, 2010

UFI unveils global exhibition industry trends

New statistics paint a picture of the trade show market past, present and future.

At its recent annual congress in Singapore, UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, released research results on the international trade show market covering three levels: venues, the events held in those venues and the companies who organize those events.

Combined with the results of the Delphi Study, the information gives the first global picture of the state of the exhibition industry today and tomorrow. UFI members who operate venues, currently manage 200 establishements – 10 more than in 2006, and one more is planned for 2012. Their total available exhibition space has grown at a global average of 3% a year during the 2006-2010 period. It is anticipated that this rate will slow down during the 2010-2012 period, to a 1% yearly growth rate.

The different regional trends show UFI member venue capacity in Asia/Pacific reaching an almost 50% increase since 2006, whereas all other regions average only 10% in capacity growth.

In terms of exhibitions, consolidated data from more than 12,000 exhibitions shows a positive trend during the 2006-2008 period, which came to an abrupt halt in 2009. The 2008/2009 level of activity was equivalent to that of 2006/2007.

Asia/Pacific, once again, led the regions with an increase of more than 15% in the number of regularly organised exhibitions. This compared to a stable market in the Middle East and Africa (MEA), and a slight decrease in exhibitions organised in Europe and the Americas.

Revenue trends
Drawing on the findings of UFI’s Global Barometer research, which has been conducted regularly since late 2008, it was found that the impact of the economic crisis on exhibit organiser turnover also reflects regional differences.

The MEA region appears to have been least affected on average, with a minimum of 50% of the companies declaring an increase during almost all periods. For the other regions, the return to increased turnover varies from the second half of 2009 for Asia/Pacific to the second half of 2010 for Europe.

Projections for the first half of 2011, indicate that the percentage of companies declaring an increase in turnover varies from 64% for Europe to 71% for the Americas and 77% for Asia/Pacific. At the time of the last UFI Barometer data collection in July 2010, the two regions where most respondents were declaring that their activity was still feeling the impact of the “economic crisis” are the Americas and Europe.

Future projections
Looking forward, UFI’s Delphi Study examined 14 factor categories that could influence the future of the exhibition industry, as it surveyed 115 international experts from 10 economic regions. After three initial study phases, the study retained five categories as those bearing the greatest interest to participants: new business models, social media and RFID (technology), protectionism, competition, mergers and acquisitions.

Experts’ responses were most enthusiastic to the hypothesis that “trade shows should become thought leaders in their markets”. That exhibitions should take the initiative to become “kings of content”, which can then be leveraged throughout the year was seen as a desirable trade show function and a professional challenge that could be mastered in cooperation with other partners of the exhibition community. It would appear that instead of selling space, the ability to supply clients with future-oriented information is seen as more and more important.

On other issues, nine of 10 experts foresee changes to customer relationship management programmes related to visitors, with improved visitor databases, a better understanding of the needs of visitors, and new concepts for matchmaking expected to be in place by 2020. As one expert put it: “There are still too many visitors left who don’t catch the right business partners.”

On the use of RFID, there is significant agreement on its future application as a tool for entry systems and ticketing, guidance systems and onsite communications. On the issue of protectionism, more than 50% of the participating experts agreed that they will have to offer special services to clients to facilitate visa access.

“UFI’s findings are among the first to formally provide solid insight into the global state of the exhibition industry,” said UFI managing director Paul Woodward. “It is UFI’s intention to continue to build upon these findings in order to develop in depth data and information. This research confirms the solid role of the exhibition industry within the global business community.”

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