The latest edition of the UFI Global Barometer reports a bright outlook for the exhibition industry: The sector is bouncing back quickly and revenues for the first half of 2023 are expected to reach 87% of comparable 2019 levels (noting that 2019 has been the industry's record year to date).
In terms of operations, around six in ten companies are reporting "normal activity" – up from just three in ten, six months earlier. By the end of 2022, seven in ten companies expect to be operating at normal levels, while only around 5% of companies still expect to have "no activity" from September 2022.
„Pre-COVID levels will be within reach as early as next year in some markets.“
When asked what elements are most crucial to supporting the "bounce-back" of exhibitions, six in ten companies selected "Lifting of current travel restrictions" and "Readiness of exhibiting companies and visitors to participate again". The two next most influential drivers are "Financial incentive packages (leading to reduced costs for the exhibitors)" and "Lifting of current public policies that apply locally to exhibitions", mentioned by four in ten and three in ten companies respectively.
In terms of 2022 operating profits, globally 25% of companies are expecting either a loss or a reduction of more than 50%, compared with 2019 levels. Overall, 73% of companies received no public financial support during the pandemic, and for the majority of those that did, financial public aid represented less than 10% of their overall costs.
The most pressing business issues reflect how the industry is now focusing on post-pandemic challenges and opportunities. "Internal management challenges" (highlighted by 20% of respondents), "Impact of digitisation" (17%) and "Competition with other media" (15%) are the most common. Meanwhile, the "Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the business" has dropped from being the most pressing business issue to the sixth-most pressing issue (a drop from 19% to 11%), compared with the previous edition of the Barometer.
"The bounce-back of exhibitions around the world has entered its next phase, and pre-COVID levels will be within reach as early as next year in some markets," says Kai Hattendorf, managing director and CEO at UFI. "As the industry manages this amazing recovery, it is also dealing with significant staffing challenges, and is working to apply key learning from the pandemic around the digitisation of events and services into its business model."www.ufi.org/MR_UFI-Global-Barometer-29th-Edition.pdf