UFI Global Barometer: 2023 Looks Bright, as the Industry Puts the Pandemic Behind and Embraces the Future

February 2, 2023

UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, released the 30th edition of its Global Exhibition Barometer research, which points to a positive outlook for 2023 and beyond following the quickening pace of the industry’s recovery in 2022.

With results indicating a full recovery expected in 2023 in most markets, with the exception of a few locations such as China, and revenues predicted to reach more than 90% of 2019 levels on average, the time has come to concentrate on thriving in a post-pandemic world while addresses the challenges that lie ahead, according to Kai Hattendorf, managing director and CEO at UFI.

“We can stop focusing on ‘post-pandemic recovery’—and move on!” Hattendorf said. “This 30th edition of our barometer confirms that the recovery phase is ending in most markets around the world.”

While every market shows certain specifics, globally, attention has shifted toward future challenges, he added.

“Internal management—primarily staffing—and the need to further develop digitalization are top of mind around the world,” Hattendorf said.

The latest edition of UFI’s bi-annual industry survey, conducted in collaboration with 21 UFI member associations, concluded in January 2023 and includes data from 367 companies in 56 countries and regions. The study also includes outlooks and analysis for 21 focus countries and regions.

Barometer Results at a Glace

Key finding from the survey include:

  • The highest levels of “normal activity” for the first half of 2023 on average are expected in Brazil (98%), Turkey, the U.S. (95%), the UK (90%), Italy and Thailand (88%), and Spain and UAE (85%). In China, only 29% expect normal activity, and 40% expect reduced activity. 
  • The overall very positive outlook is driven by the fact that exhibitions can now be held everywhere in the world (except in some places in China), with several regions reporting new hygiene measures.
  • Globally, on average and excluding China, revenues for 2022 and 2023 represent 80% and 94% of 2019 levels, respectively. For the U.S. in particular, revenues for 2022 and 2023 represent an average of 75% and 86% of 2019 levels, respectively.
  • In terms of operating profit, markets in all the countries analyzed are above average levels in either 2022 or 2023 (or both) except China, Germany, Italy, Thailand, and the U.S. Globally, 4% of respondents expect a loss for 2023, compared to 11% for 2022. The highest proportion of companies expecting a loss in 2023 was declared in China (18%), Germany (17%) and Italy (11%).
  • A key business issue for all regions is internal management challenges. Within internal management challenges,” 67% of respondents selected human resources, 44% selected business model adjustments, and 31% selected finance.
  • For Germany, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S., global economic developments has become the most pressing business issue. In the U.S. in particular, the state of the state of the economy in the home market was the next biggest business concern, followed by internal management challenges, impact of digitization and competition from within the exhibition industry.
  • Eighty eight percent of companies surveyed are confident that COVID-19 confirms the value of face-to-face events, with 26% (compared to 44% in 2022 and 63% in 2021) indicating they believe there will be fewer international physical exhibitions and less participants overall.
  • Fifty seven percent (compared to 73% in 2022 and 80% in 2021) believe there is a push toward hybrid events and more digital elements at events.

To download the full report, click here. The next UFI Global Exhibition Barometer survey will be conducted in June 2023. 

UFI will bring its annual UFI Global Congress to the U.S. for the first time this year. The 90th edition, hosted by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, will take place Nov. 1-4 at the ARIA Resort & Casino Las Vegas.

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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.