The 2019 Global Exhibition, Trade Fairs and Shows Facts and Figures5 min read

For more than 2 years now, the exhibition, trade shows and fairs industry has known a steady growth worldwide due to several economic factors. Like every year, the UFI (The Global Association for the Exhibition industry) has conducted its major market study thanks to the support of all the regional industry associations in America, Asia, Africa and Europe. This represents a reliable source of data on the industry and gives us a clear picture of the global exhibition market.

What are the global trends in the industry? To what extent is the market growing? What are the main differences between regions? What is coming next?

Before going into the details here are the key facts and figures for 2019:

  1. The industry will keep growing in 2019: a majority of organisers – 70%-80% in the 4 main regions of the world (Europe, Americas, Middle East/Africa, Asia/Pacific) have declared a growth of turnover to be expected in 2019.
  2. The growth will mainly be concentrated in Asia/Pacific and Middle-East: organisers in these regions know a constant growth of gross turnover for 5 years as opposed to Europe and Americas, the historical regions of the industry where the level of expectations for growth are lower in 2019 compared to previous years.
  3. Operating profits charts reveal that 80% of companies have maintained a good level of performance in 2018: even if many organisers in some specific countries have noticed a decrease in operating profits such as Latin America, Middle East and Germany.
  4. The main factors impacting organisers business are the state of the economy in home market, the competition within the industry, global economic development and internal challenges. The impact of digitization still remain the 5th factor to have a true impact on their activity.

If you are part of the exhibition and trade shows industry or just interested in the sector, check out Tradefest, the leading business events review platform and browse thousands of reviews from trusted professionals. Tradefest helps business executives find and compare the best trade shows and fairs in their industry worldwide.

You can find here our previous blogpost about the 2018 industry facts and figures.

A global optimism announces growth for years to come

% of companies declaring an increase in turnover when compared to their projections for the same period the year before (regardless of possible biennial effects)

The Global Exhibition industry remains enthusiastic regarding the growth of gross turnover for 2019. Between 70% and 80% of organisers predict a growth of their activity in 2019, especially in the second semester. This particularly true for Europe and Middle East/Africa.

If we take a look to the big picture, the striking fact of the chart is the significant increase in the Middle East/Africa region in recent years. Back in 2017, only 50% of players were rather optimistic regarding the evolution of their activity, today, this figures went up to 80% which makes it the most dynamic region in the world.

The most important business issues remain the same year after year

In the study, UFI asked organisers what are the main business issues that impact their activity. Surprisingly, the picture doesn’t seem to change much compared to previous years and organisers claim that major issues are:

  • “The state of the economy in home market”: 25% of participants claim it’s a major issue
  • “Competition within the industry”: 19%
  • “Global economic development”: 20% (up 2% compared to 2018)
  • “Internal challenges”: 15%

Another interesting fact is that digitisation still has a weak impact on the global trade shows and fairs industry. Only 9% of organisers claim it’s a major factor that impacts their activity.

Moreover, those factors have more or less the same importance across regions.

What make events like exhibitions attractive for visitors?

In 2019, the UFI led a new market research focusing on what makes exhibitions enjoyable for attendees. The results offer insights on what really matters to increase events audience and visitor satisfaction. The study has been released in a distinct report available through this link. Here is a short sum up for you.

In a nutshell, visitors, especially young people, value innovative content first and business opportunities. 

According to the study, the main assets that make exhibition enjoyable are: 

  1. “Talks and presentations delivered in different ways”
  2. “Interactive/audience generated content”
  3. “Informal networking”
  4. “New technology such as Virtual Reality”

On the other hand, we clearly observe that some initiatives are considered as superficial or meaningless for visitors. Live entertainment, fun ice breaker activities, informal street food style catering and unusual venues are poorly valued in the eye of attendees across regions.

Tradefest’s view: Steady growth but there’s still lot’s of room for innovation and customer experience improvement

The Global Exhibition industry keeps moving at a good pace. This steady growth is a great opportunity for the main players but there’s still lot’s of room for innovation and customer experience improvement. To ensure the long term success of the industry, there is a moment of reckoning coming soon when organisers will have to increase their focus on attendees expectations to re-energise their events, even it implies increased investment at the expense of operating profit.

People need to meet in real life to network and make business. It’s now clear that digital channels are not a threat to the exhibition industry but it’s also clear from Tradefest’s data that new event formats and alternative organisers such as big vendors running their own events are putting pressure on traditional exhibition models and appears to be an attractive breath of fresh air for attendees.

To have access to exhaustive data, find here the full 2019 UFI report.