The exhibition industry worldwide continues to evolve post-Recession, but no two regions of the world report the same trends, or the same optimism, when it comes to the exhibition market at home. The Global Barometer, a survey conducted twice yearly by the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) since 2009, polled 262 companies in 56 countries that span Europe, the Americas, Asia and Pacific, and Middle East and Africa to arrive at a state-of-the-industry assessment that examines both the industry’s performance during the past year and the outlook going forward.
Responses from North America indicate high positivity about the industry overall, with more than 50 percent reporting strong gains in 2015 and early 2016, and 80 percent saying they expect profit increases higher than 10 percent for the remainder of 2016 and early 2017.
The United Kingdom polled with similarly buoyant responses, with 100 percent of those surveyed saying they expected an increase in profitability in 2017. Researchers note that the study was conducted prior to the “Brexit” vote that is slated to remove the United Kingdom from the European Union. That decision has prompted a high degree of economic uncertainty for UK businesses. In 2015, 57 percent of respondents reported gains of more than 10 percent, and 66 percent said they expected the same for 2016.
German event organizers are considerably more pessimistic than their Western European neighbors, with less than 50 percent saying the expected profitability in 2017 to grow appreciably. In fact, nearly 30 percent say they expect annual turnover to decrease by 10 percent or more next year despite 81 percent experiencing gains in early 2016 and 93 percent anticipating the same for the rest of the year. Fifty eight percent of German organizers said their events saw an increase in profitability of more than 10 percent in 2016 when compared to 2015 figures.
South African responses suggested a rockier road for the industry, with 62 percent of those who replied saying the first half of 2016 netted some degree of decrease in turnover. Thirty four percent say they expect the trend to continue into 2017, and 28 percent replied that they just don’t know what will come.
Companies in the Middle East faired similarly to South Africa, with 50 percent reporting decreases in revenue for the first half of 2016, and 60 percent saying they anticipate the second half of the year will bring more of the same.
China, which enjoyed meteoric growth in exhibitions during recent years, has planed off according to recent results, with 70 percent saying profitability was stable in 2015 and 53 percent saying it continued to be so in 2016. For the future, however, organizers are slightly more pessimistic. Forty five percent say they expect decreases in turnover in the second half of 2016, and 30 percent believe that will continue into 2017.
In Central and South America, the degree of optimism depends on the country, though the majority (62 percent) of organizers saw decreases in the first part of 2016. Unlike many other parts of the world where decreases in turnover were reported to be smaller, in Central and South America, 50 percent said their 2016 performance so far showed decreases of 10 percent or more. Nearly 55 percent said they expect declines to continue through the year, though most believe they will be more negligible. Respondents from all countries except Brazil said they expect profitability to improve for 2017.
So while performance and optimism overall appear to be running high in 2016, the survey’s results are rather sharply skewed by the exceedingly positive responses from some areas and the comparatively negative responses from others. In general, organizers say that the global business climate remains their top concern in terms of what has the potential to affect the industry.
For the first time, respondents are also reporting on safety concerns and how they are handling them. To address those concerns, which have been spurred by the work of terrorists in various locations, officials say they are implementing various procedures, from increased screening of visitors to cross-referencing registration lists with law enforcement officials. Additional screening of exhibitors, more controls during events, and crisis information for attendees were all cited as measures organizers are implementing to address safety issues.
The 17th Global Barometer is available at no charge on UFI’s website, as are previous reports and additional pieces of industry research (www.ufi.org).