UFI figures show impact of COVID-19 on global exhibition industry

UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry, has released an updated COVID-19 damage assessment for the global exhibition and trade show industry, covering the full year of 2020.

Figures show that global industry revenues for 2020 dropped by 68 per cent, compared to 2019. This result is based on regional data provided in the UFI Global Exhibition Barometer, which indicates that 2020 revenues represented only 23 per cent of those from 2019 in Central and South America, rising to 24 per cent in the Middle East and Africa, 27 per cent in the Asia-Pacific region, 32 per cent in Europe and 36 per cent in North America.

Exhibitions have a direct impact on numerous sectors in the regions where they take place – not just the exhibition industry (venues, organisers and service providers), but all related sectors, such as accommodation, restaurants and transport. Taking all of these sectors into account, it is estimated that a minimum of €200 billion (USD 224 billion) of total exhibition-related output was not generated in 2020, including €80 billion (USD 90 billion) in North America, €65 billion (USD 73 billion) in Europe and €46 billion (USD 52 billion) in the Asia-Pacific region. 

This equates to 2.4 million full-time jobs affected globally. 

Exhibiting companies use face-to-face events to generate contacts that lead to business, either at or soon after the event, and the non-tenure of most exhibitions in 2020 has led to an estimated €330 billion (USD 370 billion) of business volume affected. 

Kai Hattendorf, CEO and managing director of UFI, said: “COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the exhibition industry, as well as those sectors who benefit from face-to-face events. The impact has not just been felt by exhibitors, who showcase their products and develop their sales, but also by those involved in ‘tourism-related’ activities. We all look forward to the lifting of current restrictions and the rebound of our economies, where exhibitions will play an important role.”