Meeting Mentor Magazine

October 2022

Trade Shows on the Comeback Trail

Trade shows and expos arguably were the events industry segment that took the biggest hit over the course of the pandemic as large venues shut down, international travel restrictions went into effect and COVID restrictions lingered for large indoor gatherings. But new research from UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry points to signs of a steady recovery for this sector of the meetings and events industry as the world continues to open up.

While it’s still too soon to expect the trade show sector as a whole to be back to pre-pandemic levels — although some shows already are doing just that — new research from UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry points to signs of a steady recovery for this beleaguered sector of the meetings and events industry. According to UFI’s latest Global Exhibition Barometer, conducted in June, revenues for expos around the world are predicted to reach 73% of 2019 levels before the end of this year.

As the UFI Barometer notes, “By June 2022, most markets (with some exceptions in Asia) had reopened for both national and international events, and the level of operations appears to be gradually improving throughout the world.”

The level of rebound predicted for this year varies from country to country, however. At the high end of the 2022 trade show revenue rebound is the UK, at 89%. Italy (85%) and Saudi Arabia (85%) aren’t far behind. The picture improves even more for 2023, with most regions expecting to get to at least 75% of their 2019 revenues before next summer. From June through the remainder of 2022, North America is tracking higher than the world in general, with 79% of North American respondents saying they expect to reach full normal operations by December 2022, compared to 66% globally overall. They also report North American cities are already 100% open for regional and national events, and 78% open for international events, compared to 96% and 74% on a worldwide basis.

Not surprisingly, a lifting of travel restrictions is at the top of most trade show organizers’ bounce-back wish lists, with 60% of all respondents globally saying this would most help them get back on track. With North America already mostly open, the top of North American organizers’ list is a renewed readiness to participate on both the exhibitor and attendee sides, which was right behind the lifting of restrictions as a major success factor globally. Forty-six percent of trade show organizers in both North America and around the world also think sweetening the pot with financial incentive packages that help exhibitors rein in their costs also will bring them back to the show floor. COVID has fallen from its place at the top of the list of key business issues, having been replaced by internal management challenges, staffing concerns, the impact of digitization and competition with other media.

There also is more optimism that some of the stubborn issues that have plagued the industry, such as a drop in in-person international exhibitors and overall attendance, are on their way out. And while hybrid events still are on the minds of 61% of trade show organizers, that’s also down from 75% last year. Just 6% — down from 14% last year — agree that virtual events are replacing physical events.

The upshot of the UFI Barometer’s findings? Despite lingering business issues stemming from the pandemic and current economic situation, 87% of respondents, up from 78% a year ago, agreed that “COVID-19 confirms the value of face-to-face events” — and that they anticipate the trade show business will bounce back quickly.

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates. www.conferencedirect.com

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually. www.meetingmentormag.com

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