Trade shows 'are getting worse' as participants demand more entertainment alongside supporting their business needs

18 December, 2018

A quick glance at the aviation and travel industry events calendar for 2019 and you could quite easily complete multiple trips around the world attending the increasing number of events now available to attend. From generic events to those serving specialist niches within the diverse business landscapes of the sectors, it is clear that it is increasingly become a matter of choice for consumers.


  • The event industry is becoming increasingly competitive and now, more than ever, event planners need to deliver something both engaging and educating to visitors;
  • The recently published 2018/19 Global Visitor Insights Study shows a stable overall satisfaction with shows, but says around a quarter of visitors from mature markets feel they are "getting worse";
  • The study shows younger, C-suite show participants are more likely to require trade shows to become more entertaining, while still meeting their business needs.

Time, duration, location and price will all be drivers in that decision making, but new research has highlighted that now, more than ever, event planners need to deliver something both engaging and educating to ensure they secure visitors in the competitive marketplace.

The 2018/19 Global Visitor Insights Study, jointly conducted by UFI - the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, and event research specialists Explori, shows that while trade show visitors globally are reporting a stable overall satisfaction with the shows they attend, between 22% and 27% of show visitors from mature markets feel that shows are "getting worse". Younger, C-suite show participants are also more likely to require trade shows to become more entertaining, while still enabling them to meet their business needs.

Based on a combination of the unique global UFI network and the global reach of the Explori customer and research base, the 2018/19 Global Visitor Insights provides a global insight into exhibition visitors. The study is based on the analysis of more than 13,000 responses from trade show visitors in 135 countries, visitor feedback from over 1,600 trade shows, combined with in-depth interviews with 29 event directors and senior marketers.

The study provides many insights and takeaways for professionals within the exhibition industry. Notably, on a global scale, it highlights that trade shows receive a 3.86 (out of 5.00) overall satisfaction rating, and a Net Promoter Score of +7. Both values have remained stable over the past three years. This suggests that "organisers appear to be doing an effective job" at maintaining visitor satisfaction and advocacy; however it also highlights visitors from developed markets are "showing more signs of fatigue from the traditional trade show model" than those from developing markets.

A positive is that visitors rate the trade show channel as "best of class" in regards to their core business needs to network/meet people, to buy/source products, to learn/stay up to date with the industry and to find new ideas/innovations, it says. However, the analysis indicates that their use of other channels "will grow at a greater rate than their use of trade shows".

The ability to source new ideas and solutions is most closely correlated with overall visitor satisfaction. "Therefore, access to an appropriate number of quality exhibitors remains key for visitors," says the study. In parallel, it suggests the traditional model for trade shows "needs to evolve to meet changing needs or audiences" as preferences of younger visitors and those from developing markets are beginning to change the current balance.

The study also highlights that organisers perceived visitors as expecting "a more seamless experience" and this corresponds with the areas the findings show that frustrate visitors most. Seating areas, catering, and queuing times top this list. WIFI accessibility only appears at number nine on the list of frustrations, "but is more likely to be seen as an issue by younger visitors," says the study.

Whereas event technology can have a beneficial effect on the visitor experience in many areas, the study says there is still "a general lack of awareness, functionality and execution" which currently limits its value to both organisers and visitors.