UFI’s 86th Annual Congress Draws Record Crowd in Thailand

November 7, 2019

UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, is reaching more industry professionals around the world than ever before. On Nov. 6, UFI members from more than 50 countries converged for the 2019 UFI General Assembly in Bangkok, Thailand, to review the organization’s work throughout the past year, as well as discuss plans for 2020. 

The meeting precedes UFI’s 86th annual Global Congress, which boasts more than 550 registered participants this year, making it the largest in UFI’s history and matching the record number of attendees at the 2016 Congress in Shanghai, China. 

Chaired by Craig Newman, UFI’s 2019 president, the General Assembly highlighted an array of new initiatives supporting the association’s global membership in around 90 countries. Once again, membership has grown steadily this year and for the first time in the association’s 95-year history, now exceeds 800 member companies, according to UFI officials.

“Reviewing the past 12 months, I feel proud – proud of the achievements and developments UFI has seen,” Newman said. “For me, three things stand out from all the work around the world: UFI’s focus on collaboration, the development in UFI’s smaller chapters in Middle East/Africa and Latin America, and UFI’s research work."

Newman added that what makes UFI unique is not only that it works with and for its members, refraining from competing with national associations or running national chapters, but also that its more than 50 national and international exhibition industry member associations maintain a spirit of collaboration.

“This year, we have signed an agreement to take these collaborations one step further, to the global level – the Global Alliance with AIPC and ICCA,” he said. “As the business models for exhibitions and conferences today overlap, we can learn from each other. Together, our future is brighter if the best global trade associations collaborate for the benefit of our members.”

UFI Events Continue to Grow

In 2019, around 1,400 industry professionals attended the wide array of UFI’s global events, from the Global CEO Summit in London to the Global Congress in Bangkok. Attendance grew by approximately 8 percent compared to 2018, which was also a record year. 

The Global CEO Summit kicked off 2019 followed by two global events, three regional conferences and two topical meetings worldwide, as well as many informal meetings and gatherings. 

Following plans to promote activities in the Middle East and Latin America, UFI’s Middle East/Africa Conference became the largest-ever designated MEA regional exhibition industry conference, held April 8-9 at the Dubai World Trade Centre. 

With UFI’s Global Congress returning to Bangkok this year after a successful edition in 2004, the association is putting the spotlight on the largest trade show market in ASEAN. According to UFI research, in 2018, 640,000 sqm (approximately 6,888,900 square feet) of trade show floor space was sold in Thailand, an industry increase of around 4 percent. 

Robust Global Educational Offerings

According to UFI officials, education and diversity in leadership are both strategic priorities for the association. After two sold-out editions of the UFI-VMA Venue Management School program in Shanghai, a third edition will take place Dec. 9-11 in Shanghai and the program will expand into South East Asia next year. 

The year 2019 also saw another edition of the International Summer University in association with Kölnmesse and the University of Cologne. Along with the ISU, several UFI-EMD program courses were held around the world. 

In addition, the scope of UFI’s talent recognition program, the Next Generation Leadership Grant has expanded to include individual mentoring for grantees. 

Growing Research Portfolio Adds Global Economic Impact, Regional Latin America Report

UFI’s regular research insights on global, regional and topical themes continues to evolve. With the size and scope of UFI’s research available to its members growing significantly in recent years, the association relaunched its research portal to help facilitate research access.

The following research was released in 2019:

  • UFI and research partner Explori published a third Global Visitor Insights study covering in-depth reviews on participant expectations regarding show organizers and venues. Including data from more than 13,000 trade show visitors globally, the study was sponsored by the Society of Independent Show Organizers.
  • The Global Economic Impact study, covering global and regional data on the total economic impact of the exhibition industry in terms of economic output, GDP and jobs. The report was also supported by SISO and produced by Oxford Economics.
  • On the growing issue of sustainable development, The Exhibition Industry and the UN SDGs, aggregates 20 case studies on exhibition industry projects that pay into the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
  • A report on Best Practices in Marketing, which adds to UFI’s report portfolio showcasing the winning and shortlisted entries from the association’s award schemes. Each of these reports shares more than 40 respective case studies from around the world.
  • Two updated editions of UFI’s Global Exhibition Barometer, as well as the annual update on market overviews for Europe (Eurofairs Statistics) and Asia/Pacific (The Trade Show Industry in Asia).

At the Global Congress in Bangkok, UFI will release two new studies:

  • Global Exhibitor Insights, providing global trends on exhibitor experiences and expectations at trade shows. Produced jointly with Explori, the study is based on a sample of more than 1,500 trade show exhibitors and showcases developments as well as future challenges and opportunities for the industry. 
  • The first-ever comprehensive overview of the Latin American trade show industry covering all markets in this fast-growing region.

UFI’s International Reach Continues to Expand

Coordinated by UFI along with its global network of association partners, the 4th annual Global Exhibitions Day on June 5 activated more than 17,000 industry professionals in 88 countries and regions to join initiatives and activities highlighting the role of exhibitions for economies and societies large and small.

In Europe, the European Exhibition Industry Alliance has represented UFI’s European members and EMECA’s members in Brussels since 2012. The EU-funded “Business Beyond Borders” matchmaking program concluded successfully, and EEIA continues to monitor relevant legislation and political moves in Brussels, with special focus on GDPR, posted workers, services and trade and tourism. 

In Asia, UFI works as a registered NGO in China and is the first international business events industry association to receive this status. This allows the association to serve as a link between its members and the authorities to help optimize relations. 

“For the first time in UFI’s 95-year history, we count more than 800 member companies,” said Sonia Thomas, UFI COO and director of operations. “This makes us proud, and serves as motivation to the UFI team in Paris and around the world to work even harder for the industry.”

Looking Ahead to 2020

Over the next 12 months, the association will continue its current strategic initiatives that include focusing on events, research, education and global advocacy, according to UFI officials.

The annual Global CEO Summit will take place Feb. 5-7 in Rome, Italy, and three Regional Conferences are set for March 4-6 in Macau; Buenos Aires April 20-21; and Gothenburg, Sweden June 3-5. The Global Congress will return to the MEA region, in Muscat, Oman Nov. 9-12.

In addition, several UFI Forums will take place in 2020, including the Digital Innovation Forum in Macau on March 4; a Forum on Sustainable Development set for May 13-15 in Paris, France; and an HR Management Forum in Gothenburg June 2-3.

While the Congress is reserved for UFI members, conferences and Educational Forums are open to all industry professionals. Learn more about UFI’s events around the world here.

In addition, UFI’s new presidential leadership trio includes Mary Larkin, president of Diversified Communications USA, as UFI’s 2020 President; Anbu Varathan, CEO of IMTMA (India), as Incoming President; and Craig Newman, CEO of Johannesburg Expo Centre in South Africa, as Outgoing President.

“We are pleased to report another year where we have been able to support our members around the world,” said Kai Hattendorf, UFI managing director and CEO. “Their success is our reward, and we are happy to see that, globally, the exhibition industry continues to grow at a steady pace despite political and economic headwinds.”

He continued, “With our global portfolio of events, research, education and advocacy activities, we do our part to help our community of more than 50,000 industry professionals to make the connections, get the data, and have the knowledge and recognition they need to navigate successfully through tougher times.”

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