Global exhibition organisers association UFI predicts revenue will double this year over a crippling 2020 with companies keeping faith in value of face-to-face meetings, writes Martin Donovan in MIX Magazine. Confidence among exhibition industry organisers that revenues will double this year compared to a dire 2020 has been spotlighted in the latest UFI Global Barometer survey covering 457 companies worldwide.

The global exhibition organisers’ association reported that even though 54 per cent of member companies have had to reduce their workforce by as much as a quarter due to the Covid pandemic, they say the crisis has reinforced their faith in the value of face-to-face business events.

The UFI Global Barometer released this week showed that 64 per cent of companies surveyed were confident that the exhibitions industry would recover quickly. Between April and August 2020, more than half of UFI-affiliated companies reported no activity, but this changed from September when most were resuming operations at reduced levels. UFI reported that 37 per cent expected business activity to reach “normal” levels by June this year.

Most companies responded by listing the following when asked about what would help the industry “bounce back”. Firstly, the “readiness of exhibiting companies and visitors to participate again” (64 %); lifting of current travel restrictions (63 %), and the lifting of “current public policies that apply locally to exhibitions” (54 %).

“We will ‘build back’ even better, and while the industry will remain, primarily, a face-to-face marketing channel, digital offers will evolve with new patterns,” said Kai Hattendorf, UFI managing director and CEO.

Covid-19’s impact on business continued to be the most important business concern stated by 29 % of companies (2 % on six months previously) followed by the effect of digitalisation and “competition with other media.”

The survey also found that number of companies receiving public financial support is higher in Europe (54 % of companies) and the Asia-Pacific region (53 %), than in Central and South America (35 %), North America (31 %) and the Middle East and Africa (13 %). More exhibition company jobs were lost In the Middle East and Africa (73 % of firms), North America (61 %) and Central and South America (56 %), than in Europe (52 %) and Asia-Pacific (49 %).

The proportion of companies predicting closure if business does not resume within the next six months varied from 5 per cent in North America and 6 per cent in Asia-Pacific, to 17 per cent in the Middle East and Africa.