Asia, the new El Dorado for the exhibition industry4 min read

For the first time ever, the net surface area of trade fair and exhibition space sold on the continent of Asia exceeded 20 million m2 (+5.5% of growth compared to 2015) in 2016. Over the last 5 years there’s been staggering growth in the industry. In 2012, the total booth space sold had only just reached 16 million m2, which means it’s grown 20% in the last 4 years. In its most recent study from UFI (Global Association for the Exhibition Industry) confirms that approx. 20.77 million m2 of booth space was indeed sold and this is a record!


What makes asian development model so effective? What are the implications of such a growth for the rest of the world?


China leads the way


China makes up 58% of overall booth space sold with 12 million m2 and growth of 7.7%, some of the strongest on the continent. It’s on another level in terms of size and no other asian nation comes close, Japan for instance is 6 times smaller with only 2.06 million m2. China not only holds an incomparable amount of trade fairs and conferences, but the quality and range has also grown throughout the years. Although it’s still developing compared to Europe and the US, the country is one of the most advanced in terms of innovation and digital adoption. The Global Exhibition Barometer 2017 published by UFI shows an index for the level of digital adoption and China is the second most developed country behind Germany. An impressive feat!



This trend is powered through initiatives in both the public and private sector. For example China actively supports regular events designed to give impetus to and accelerate innovation in its indigenous exhibition industry. Events such as the China International Exhibition Industry Development Conference, China International MICE Industry Development Conference or China International Convention Industry Week Beijing Seminar which this year dedicated an entire section ‘the Mobile Convention and Exhibition’ to encourage better use of mobile technologies


On each of these occasions, hundreds of professionals from the domestic events industry meet, exchange and coordinate. It’s interesting to see to what extent the development of the sector is led and coordinated by public institutions. Through highly organised central planning it can take the lead on the issues of the future like sustainable development.


As other regions of the world shrink back, China attacks the problem head on, the ministry of commerce is getting ready to launch two initiatives, the China Green Convention and Exhibition League and the China Green Convention and Exhibition Development Seminar.


Elsewhere, there’s significant growth in certain countries in Southern Asia, most notably in the Philippines (+9,6%), India (+7,4%), Vietnam (+7,3%) and Indonesia (+5,8%).


Growth that attracts massive foreign investment


The rapid growth of the Asian market and strengthening of the industry in numerous countries has triggered a race towards mergers and acquisitions at an international level. It’s noticeable that large international groups look more and more to leverage the boom in Asia to acquire growth. UBM, the largest global player announced in December 2016 the purchase of Allworld for $485m, acquiring for itself the leading private organiser of trade fairs in Asia with 51 multi sector trade fairs in 11 countries including China, South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia.  


More recently in June, Blackstone, the largest private equity fund in the world, $368 billion, acquired Global Sources, a major Chinese player based in Hong Kong. The French group Comexposium also followed suit as part of a joint venture that adds Gaikindo Indonesia International Auto Show (GIIAS), the largest event in Indonesia, to its portfolio. This is their first major foray into Asia


Is Asia the new El Dorado for the exhibition industry? In any case it’s consistently the most dynamic region in recent years. The US and Europe are still the two most important markets, this is where you’ll find the ‘Meccas’ for most industries. There’s the largest events of their kind anywhere in the world in Germany (Bauma, Cebit, Hannover Messe…) and the US  (CES Las Vegas, Conexpo…). However nowadays it feels like they’re drawing inspiration from Asia, in terms of growth and innovation, as well as drawing in large scale foreign investment.


If you’re interested in the global exhibition industry, we launched a free dedicated global events discovery platform. We can for instance check the list of the trendiest fairs in China and then sort the results by sector thanks to our industry tag system. By signing up, users benefit from industry specific personalised recommendations and can consult reviews and scores to get impartial feedback on events in their community.


Visit our website and see for yourself 🙂