IFES: Exhibitions – a global outlook

Exhibitions – a global outlook

IFES (International Federation of Exhibition and Event Services) has published a global outlook. Justin Hawes, President of IFES & MD of Scan Display (South Africa), talked to IFES members from five continents about trade fairs markets in Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia, America and Australia.

Across the globe, exhibitions are on hold with little certainty on when they will be able to resume. The exception is the Middle East, which seems to have been better able to stem the spread of the virus. Many organisers have developed online platforms to continue working. However, these have not been successful. Uta Goretzky, Executive Director of IFES, believes that exhibitions work because face-to-face meetings engender trust quickly and effectively, allowing business to proceed. It is much harder to build trust online.

Since the global industry has largely been paused, there is a pent-up demand for trade shows. UFI’s research also reveals that more value is now placed on face-to-face marketing. Yet, the unknowns around vaccine efficacy, and how long it will take consumer confidence and marketing budgets to return, make it hard to know when exhibitions will resume. Across the board, it is agreed that events will begin locally, followed by regionally and then internationally. They will likely be smaller with fewer visitors, at least initially, and will depend on technology to improve both safety and reach.

For Europe, the global outlook says: Like the rest of the world, no live events are currently taking place in Europe and there is a great deal of uncertainty about when they will resume – although many are expecting the second half of 2021 will start to see improvements. Andrew Harrison, Director of UK-based ESSA (Event Supplier & Services Association), says, “Many variables are at play here, such as the continued roll out of vaccines, declining transmission rates, insurance, business travel restrictions, testing and client confidence. Time is running out now, if not already gone, for anything of note to take place in early Spring in the UK. The right noises are being made by several shows in late Spring into summer, with some of these events being sizeable. But Autumn exhibition season is probably a more realistic target,” he says. He adds, “The world is not moving at the same pace or on the same path in how it has dealt or will continue to deal with this pandemic. This will impact the return of live events, especially those that require travel.” Harrison also believes that large domestic meetings and conferences will have a better chance of gaining the critical mass they need, unlike exhibitions which generally draw much larger numbers. But - “Once we get going, every exhibition that gets out of the gate in 2021 will feel like the opening ceremony of the London Olympics for everyone.”

In France, some national shows are still planned for June while others have been postponed as far out as 2023. Philippe Beille, CEO of French-based Duo, says, “We all want to believe that as soon as enough people are vaccinated, we can open shows, which would be after our summer. But our country has not been very fast to vaccinate… so we expect to only get back to ‘normal’ in January 2022, gradually.” He adds that UNIMEV, the French Meeting Industry Council, conducted a study with economists. It found that, once exhibitions resume, it will likely take six months for exhibitors to feel safe enough to start planning to spend money on exhibiting again. “This is the reason why our industry is urging the government to provide an expected date for re-allowing shows,” he says. “For example, allowing shows with no limitations in number of attendees in Autumn 2021 would let us get back to ‘normal’ at the end of Q1 in 2022.”

The full version is availabe on the IFES’ website.