PANDEMIC SITUATION

The European Exhibition Industry has been hit especially hard by the containment measures due to the Covid pandemic 2020-2021. Exhibition and events were the first to be shut down in March 2020 and the last to be allowed to open under strict health and safety measures. The exhibition sector in Europe decreased by -68% in 2020. Digital tools were successfully keeping the different sectorial communities aboard during the time of lockdowns. These worked well for knowledge exchange and product presentations while for making new business contacts or closing deals the in-presence events cannot be replaced. In Spain and Italy exhibitions were allowed to reopen in May and June 2021 respectively with other European countries following over the summer and all starting with larger shows in September 2021. National or European events are currently working well and the calendars for Q3 an Q4 of 2021 are even squeezed due to postponements and rearranged dates adding to regularly scheduled events. Full recovery to pre-pandemic levels (2019) is not expected before 2023. The main asset of Europe’s exhibition industry is to host a large share of the leading international trade fairs and professional events in the world, therefore, the travel restrictions into Europe are still an important impediment to full recovery.

Good news from the customer side can be found in this report:
Global Recovery Insights 2021 by UFI and Explori

This latest in the Global Recovery Insights series of quantitative global survey of trade show visitors and exhibitors, carried out in the summer of 2021, collectively gained 15,000 responses in 10 languages, representing trade show participation in over 30 countries. The report focused on five key themes which build on, and can be compared with, the findings of previous Global Insights studies.

The study found that demand has returned to pre-pandemic levels for both exhibitors and visitors, with no signs of a fundamental shift away from in-person trade shows as a channel. 72% of existing visitors say they plan to attend trade shows with the same or increased frequency in future, with 62% of exhibitors reporting the same intention.

The impact of the pandemic on spend has been far less severe than feared and 45% of exhibitors expecting budgets to return to normal within 12 months.

In previous studies, exhibitors have used visitor numbers as a deciding factor, but this appears to have shifted with 86% of exhibitors stating visitor quality is a large influence on their decision to invest in a show against 67% citing visitor numbers. Where exhibitors are looking to make savings, high quality shows appear protected, with exhibitors using their previous positive experiences to inform their decisions.

Face-to-face remains the preferred channel for networking and overall experience. Exhibitors are not diverting significant percentages of the budget to digital, although it is seen as a way to test new events and has the potential to deliver content and widen audiences.

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LEADING GLOBALLY

The European exhibition industry is a global leader in terms of venue capacity, quality and turnover.

Europe represents nearly half of the market share of the total exhibition industry and hosts the majority of all leading international B2B and B2C trade fairs.

For our industry to continue to lead and innovate, we need favourable economic and political conditions, a strong Internal Market, a level playing field in Europe, fair competition rules and free trade.

ENHANCING TRADE

The European exhibition industry facilitates trade at all levels by enabling businesses to build trust in face-to-face interactions and by providing high level B2B and B2C meetings which lead to new deals. 

With most worldwide leading exhibitions taking place in Europe, European trade fairs attract businesses from within the EU and all around the world. 

They provide a maximum number of business opportunities in one place, enabling EU companies to avoid travelling outside the EU to meet potential business partners and customers. 

Companies encounter a global offer of goods and services in one single international event on their doorstep. 

At the same time, European exhibition organisers bring European exhibition quality outside Europe by organising trade fairs worldwide. This supports the internationalisation of businesses into global growth markets. 

Thanks to trade agreements, imports and exports have increased over recent years, helping European companies access new opportunities worldwide. This is the reason why we need open markets and rule-based multilateralism. Fair and stable conditions are also key to attract buyers from third countries and enable European exhibition organisers to access and invest in emerging markets.

BOOSTING INNOVATION AND COMPETITIVENESS

Innovation is vital for Europe’s competitiveness in the global economy. European exhibitions create the perfect setting to boost innovation by offering a condensed overview of novelties, insights on R&D and key industry trends.

It is essential for businesses to stay up to date with cutting-edge technologies that will drive their industry forward in today’s competitive environment. Exhibitions enable businesses and research institutions to evaluate the potential of their innovations by demonstrating their products and services, saving significant time to put them on the market. We provide platforms for European and international competitors to meet in one venue, exchanging and experiencing direct competition first hand. We therefore help to create a culture of entrepreneurship focused on risk-taking and innovation which helps make Europe more competitive on the global scene.  

Additionally, we support companies to protect their products and prevent counterfeits by providing “Exhibition Priority Certificates” which are recognised by National Patent and Trademarks Offices.

For our industry to adapt to the fast changes that digitisation demands and fully seize the opportunities it offers, policymakers should not impose overly restrictive rules and obligations on new technologies. Our industry also needs a more digitally skilled workforce which requires increasing the number of apprenticeships and students in this field.

EMPOWERING SMES

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Europe’s economy, representing 99% of all companies operating in the EU. SMEs represent the highest share of our exhibitors.

European exhibitions represent the most efficient and cost-effective marketing tool for SMEs. We help them build more business contacts in a limited period and at minimal cost. We provide a platform for their potential business partners and customers to experience their products and services. 

European exhibitions enable SMEs to access new markets and generate growth outside the EU by offering them the internationally leading sector exhibitions at their doorstep where the most influential international buyers are keen to discover their products. Our industry also paves the way for SMEs to access growing markets worldwide by organising exhibitions abroad and taking European companies to these target regions.

By empowering SMEs to develop their activity both within and outside Europe, our industry represents an important asset for them to increase their internationalisation and access third markets. 

While we welcome the European Union’s strategy aimed at helping SMEs expand their business outside the EU, we suggest to increase funding to also support exhibition organisers who provide the platforms where companies take their first steps into internationalisation. 

Considering their expertise on the field, exhibition organisers should be included into the eligible proposers for all relevant programmes. Funding for targeted services like tailor made exhibition matchmaking and hosted buyers programmes would increase the positive effects for SMEs to expand their business.

POSITIVELY IMPACTING REGIONS

Our industry substantially contributes to regional development by generating social and economic benefits.

We generate direct, indirect and induced gains and contribute to Europe’s economy with jobs and growth in various sectors such as business tourism, transportation, manufacturing, construction and hospitality.

The exhibition venues generate a pole of economic activities that facilitate the development of infrastructures and contribute to the development of the areas where exhibitions take place. 

EMBRACING SUSTAINABILITY

Sustainability is integrated into all our activities. Sustainability and, in a larger sense Corporate Social Responsibility, is a must for our industry and our customers. 

Most of the European venues and exhibitions hold certification. The venues invest into refurbishing to make them more energy efficient. Many generate their own energy and/or use renewable energy. They also strive for more efficiency in day-to-day activities by improving logistics for set-up and dismantling, and by reducing waste and increasing recycling following an overarching goal of limiting their environmental footprint in everything they do. Meeting multiple business partners in one location substantially reduces business travel for exhibitors and visitors compared to individual encounters which saves a considerable amount of time.

Exhibitions encompass all sectors of business, government and civil society, as a large value chain of partners and stakeholders work together to organise them. With such a wide audience and reach, the exhibition industry can have 
a meaningful collective impact.