The impact of COVID-19 on the exhibition industry has been severe but signs point to a quick recovery in 2021.
This is according to UFI’s latest global barometer survey results.
The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry reports that industry revenues will likely double in 2021, compared to 2020, when revenues represented just 28 per cent of those in 2019.
Globally, between April and August 2020, more than half of all companies reported no activity. This situation changed from September, where the majority of companies declared some operations, albeit at reduced levels for most. The share of companies expecting a return to ‘normal’ activity is expected to grow to 37 per cent in June, from 10 per cent in January.
These results vary depending on region and are primarily driven by the ‘re-opening date’ of events. In all regions, most companies expect both local and national exhibitions to re-open by the end of June, with international exhibitions resuming in the second half of the year.
When asked what element would most help with the ‘bounce back’ of exhibitions, the majority of companies ranked readiness of exhibiting companies and visitors to participate again (64 per cent), lift of current travel restrictions (63 per cent) and lift of current public policies that apply locally to exhibitions (52 per cent) as key factors.
Overall, 44 per cent of companies benefitted from some level of public financial support; 54 per cent had to reduce their workforce, with half of these by more than 25 per cent; and 10 per cent of companies will have to consider permanently ceasing operations if there are no events for the next six months.
As expected, the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic on business is considered the most important issue. The impact of digitalization and competition with other media have also increased, while the state of the economy in the home market and global economic developments have decreased but remain among the top three concerns.
In terms of future exhibition formats, global results indicate that nearly two-thirds are confident that COVID-19 confirms the value of face-to-face events.