UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, has released the latest edition of its Global Barometer research. While the results highlight the strong impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global exhibition industry in 2020, the situation is gradually improving, and there is a strong belief that the sector will bounce back quickly. The proportion of companies globally expecting “no activity” for the last quarter of 2021 has fallen from 53 percent, in January, to less than 10 percent, while the proportion of companies with “normal activity” has increased from 12 percent, to close to 50 percent. Regional results indicate that the Middle East & Africa and Central & South America regions are likely to be more affected than others with a monthly average throughout 2021 of respectively 40 percent and 34 percent of “no activity”.
These results are primarily driven by the currently confirmed or expected “reopening dates” for exhibitions. The majority of companies in all regions expect both local and national exhibitions to open again in the coming 12 months, and international exhibitions to reopen in the first half of 2022. When asked what element would most help towards the “bounce-back” of exhibitions, the majority of companies rank “lifting of current travel restrictions” (71 percent of answers), “readiness of exhibiting companies and visitors to participate again” (58 percent), and “lifting of current public policies that apply locally to exhibitions” (55 percent) as the key drivers.
In terms of future exhibition formats, global results indicate that 78 percent (up from 64 percent six months ago, and 57 percent 12 months ago) of respondents are confident that “COVID-19 confirms the value of face-to-face events”, anticipating that the sector will bounce back quickly.
“The Barometer results confirm the severe impact of the pandemic on our industry. But as most markets have reopened, or know when they most likely will reopen, the bounce-back is on its way, and the sector is confident that COVID-19 will have reinforced the value of physical events, while also pushing the development of new digital products and services,” says Kai Hattendorf, UFI Managing Director and CEO. The survey was concluded in June 2021 and includes data from 474 companies in 64 countries and regions.