What's Next for Globalization? And What Will it Mean for the Exhibition Industry?

November 5, 2016

The exhibition industry has seen huge growth in the past 20 years, driven by economic growth around the world, as the global economy expanded at the fastest pace in recorded history. This happened in part, as a recent article in the British Guardian pointed out, thanks to greater freedom of movement for goods, capital and people. Essentially, globalisation has boosted the growth of living standards for millions of people around the world. And our industry, providing the market places for international trade all around the world, played a vital role in this.

Yet, at the same time, already 15 years back the „Economist“ magazine warned that „western governments do a poor job of explaining and defending globalisation – so poor as to breed disaffection with democratic politics.“ Reading this magazine editorial today, in 2016, it seems that many leaders in politics and society took it for granted that the benefits of globalisation were somehow to be understood and accepted by everyone.

Todays political developments in major exhibition markets around the world show a different picture. The complexities of globalisation, and the speed of change makes many people feel that they are being „left behind“. Uncertainty is on the rise, fired up by policital campaigning, the recent string of terror attacks around the world, and the British vote on Brexit, to name just a few. This matters for our industry - for exhibitions as well as for the broader meetings market in general.

Traditionally, the success of exhibitions is linked to the success of the industries they serve – a strong automotive industry is holding strong motor shows around the world, as an example. Trade shows quickly bounce back from economic slumps, as our industry on the whole has proven after the 2008/9 global economic slowdown globally. However, presently we are seeing what economists around the world describe as “ever slowing pace of growth”, and this is translating into more challenging times for us as well.  

The 2017 “Global Meetings and Events Forecast”, just released by American Express, states that there is “some hesitancy” in the meetings industry: “While this sentiment has yet to have a meaningful impact, we do expect this shift may result in some slowdown in the growth we have witnessed over the last couple of years… Overall activity, including number of meetings or number of attendees per meeting, may see a decline.”

So one of the challenges we will have to address as an industry is how to prepare and deal with this sentiment, as one of the driving forces of our industry’s growth seems to lose strength. And, at the same time, help to support and bolster the growth of industries and economies both on the national and international levels. I am confident that, as a global industry, we have a vital role to play here. The fact that, just a few days from now, we will welcome hundreds of global exhibition industry leaders from 50+ countries at UFI's Global Congress, is a huge testament to the global connectedness of our industry. I look forward to seeing many of you in Shanghai!

This post originally appeared on the blog of UFI - The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry.

Add new comment

Partner Voices
Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact