UFI aims to remain resilient as global exhibitions and events are in the coronavirus spotlight

17 February, 2020

The global exhibitions and events industry is aiming to remain resilient in challenging times as the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak continues to impact the sector with events of all kinds being postponed or cancelled. The news that one path of international spread can be linked back to an event in a Singapore hotel highlights how meetings with a close proximity of delegates can be the perfect environment for the virus to spread.

An increasing spotlight has been placed on the sector following confirmation last week that a confirmed carrier of COVID-19 attended a major transport conference in London. But, the exhibitions and events industry exists to provide platforms for people and industries to meet, to trade, and to collaborate. As such these gatherings are especially important in times of disruption.

"It is our obligation to maintain opportunities for people to meet wherever possible. Small and medium businesses in all industries in particular depend on exhibitions. And, like all types of events, they support the economy worldwide," explains Mary Larkin, president of UFI, a global association of the world's tradeshow organisers and exhibition centre operators.

"We stand in sympathy and support of everyone affected by the current COVID-19 outbreak, whether directly or indirectly… We, as representatives of the exhibitions industry, are committed to providing these much-needed meeting places around the world, wherever we can do so," she adds.

When it comes to health, UFI, like many other stakeholders, relies on the experts in that field, from global bodies like the World Health Organisation but also the national, regional, and local health authorities in the locations hosting exhibitions and events.

"We confirm that we are both supportive of the markets and communities we serve, and resilient in challenging times. We are ready to demonstrate this again, and will do our part to overcome the current situation. We will follow their advice to keep participants safe," adds Ms Larkin.

UFI recently released the latest edition of its flagship Global Barometer research, which takes the pulse of the industry. Notably, the report confirms strong industry performance for 2019, but also a higher level of uncertainty when looking towards 2020 in many countries, especially in the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America.

The survey reveals a positive result in terms of operating profit, with at least 70% of companies in each of the four regions maintaining a good level of performance in 2019 compared to 2018. The majority of companies from all regions also expect an increase in gross turnover. However, there was uncertainty in many countries, even prior to the coronavirus issue.

Results also indicate that the key issue for the industry remains the "state of the economy at home" (selected by 26% of all respondents). This is ahead of "competition within the industry" (20%) and "global economic developments" (19%). In recent editions of this long-running UFI research, there has been a trend towards this focus on the national/regional economy over global economic development.

In terms of strategy, in all regions, a large majority of companies intend to develop new activities, either with classic exhibition industry initiatives and/or by moving outside current product portfolios. In terms of geographical expansion, on average globally, more than one company out of three declares an intention to develop operations in new countries.

This latest edition of UFI's bi-annual industry survey was concluded in Jan-2020 and includes data from a record 438 companies in 70 countries and regions. The study delivers outlooks and analysis for 18 countries and regions: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Macau, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, the UAE (for the first time), the UK and the US. In addition, it analyses four aggregated regional zones. The next UFI Global Barometer survey is due to be conducted in Jun-2020.