UFI’s Latest Global Barometer Highlights Festivalization of Exhibitions, Growing Uncertainty

February 11, 2020

UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, today released the latest edition of its Global Barometer research, which measures the state of the global exhibition industry. Among the highlights: strong industry performance overall for 2019, but also high uncertainty looking ahead for this year in regions such as Asia-Pacific and Latin America. (Note: This research was conducted before the coronavirus outbreak, which may be impacting outlook.)

“Exhibitions grew again in 2019, but a slowdown is expected for the beginning of 2020,” says Kai Hattendorf, managing director and CEO of UFI. “The novel coronavirus outbreak, which has already led to many shows being postponed or cancelled in China and Asia, will impact this as well.”

He continued, “We all hope this situation settles quickly, as the exhibition industry is using these results to shape its general development plans and how it’s adapting to the continually evolving classic business model.”

In good news, at least 70 percent of companies in each of the four measured regions included in the research reported maintaining a good level of performance in 2019 compared to 2018, in terms of operating profit. However, the majority of companies from all regions expect an increase in gross turnover.

Even prior to the coronavirus issue, many companies indicated uncertainty with the state of the industry—particularly in Argentina, China, Macau, Japan, Mexico and the U.K. Results of the research indicate that the key issue remains “the state of the economy at home” (chosen by 26 percent of respondents), ahead of “competition within the industry” (20 percent) and “global economic developments (19 percent). As with recent editions of the long-running UFI research, there is an increased focus on the national/regional economy as opposed to global economic development.

The global scope of the Barometer points out how strategic priorities in each market compare. For example, “While the development of the economy in the home market [globally] is the most pressing concern, the U.S. is notably less concerned there,” says Hattendorf. “By contrast, the industry in the U.S. is more concerned about the impact of digitization and of regulatory and stakeholder issues, compared to the global average.”

The report also covers the evolution of the exhibition model and to what extent certain features are being implemented. For example, results indicate a major use of conference stages on and near the showfloor (rated 3.6 on a scale of 5, indicating the degree to which show organizers add this element to shows). This was followed by use of open meeting spaces (2.9) and catering and designated food spaces (2.8). Off-site main events, on the other hand, were implemented less often (2). 

With regard to having conference stages on and near the showfloor, 33 percent of respondents indicated that these stages used between 10 and 25 percent of the show’s total space.

“Call it ‘festivalisation,’ call it ‘ConfEx’ — the business model of exhibitions keeps evolving,” says Hattendorf. “The Barometer shows that, globally, the core elements of these trends are by now well understood around the world… but their use differs.” 

When it comes to strategy, show organizers are increasingly looking to develop new activities, either in the classic range of exhibition industry activities or moving outside current portfolios. Broken down by region, 93 percent of companies in the Americas intend to do this, followed by 90 percent in Europe and 87 percent in the Middle East. Additionally, about one-third of companies have intentions to develop operations in new countries. 

To access the full report from UFI for free, go here. The next UFI Global Barometer survey will be conducted in June 2020.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.