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Situational Analysis: the Key Figures of the Global Exhibition Industry in 2011

Situational Analysis: the Key Figures of the Global Exhibition Industry in 2011


By Christian Druart


3Christian Druart is the UFI Research Manager. He also holds the positions of Secretary of the UFI Associations’ Committee and of the UFI Sustainable Development Committee. He is a member of the ISO 20121 Project Committee and the GRI EOSS Advisory Board.

Christian Druart holds an Engineering degree from the Ecole Centrale de Nantes and a Master’s degree in Organization from the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (France).

Prior to joining UFI, he worked for the French Embassy in London, Price Waterhouse Management Consultants and the Paris Chamber of Commerce, where he was Deputy Director of the Congress & Exhibition department.





Christian Druart
Research Manager



UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, has developed its research program with the objective to provide reliable data on the international exhibition market to its members and to the general community interested in exhibitions. Different projects are undertaken in order to provide the required data which covers three levels: the venues, the events held in those venues and the companies who organize those events. In addition, a “Global Exhibition Barometer” is produced twice a year which assesses the key economic results of companies from the exhibition industry (including turnover and operating profit).

This trend survey was initiated at the beginning of 2009 among UFI Members in order to assess the impact of the “economic crisis”. The survey also included members from SISO (Society of Independent Show Organizers) in the USA and from AFIDA in Central & South America (Asociacion International de Ferias de America).

In June 2011, the data from members of EXSA (Exhibition and Events Association of Southern Africa) will also be included. In addition UFI conducts “The Trade Fair Industry in Asia”  report (in cooperation with BSG) and the “Euro Fair Statistics”, whose last edition lists the audited statistics of 2,092 trade fairs and exhibitions held in 2009 in 20 European countries.


A look at Exhibition venues

UFI’s “World Map of Exhibition Venues”, first produced in 2007, identifies exhibition venues with a minimum of 5,000 sqm indoor exhibition space worldwide. 1,062 venues were identified in 2006, corresponding to a total gross indoor exhibition space: 27.6 million sqm. At the time, projected figures for 2010 were 1,104 venues, cumulating 31.1 million sqm of total gross indoor exhibition space: (+13% over the period or +3.2% per year on average).

A new World Map of Exhibition Venues will be released by UFI in November 2011. In October 2010, UFI analysed the venue expansion among its 188 Members who operate exhibition centres.  Results show that among UFI members, venues have increased their exhibition space by approximately 3% a year during the 2006-2010 period. It was expected that this rate would slow during the 2010-2012 period, with a small 1% yearly rate increase. Different regional trends are noted, with UFI member venue capacity in Asia/Pacific almost reaching a 50% increase since 2006.  All other regions showed a 10% increase in capacity.






Exhibitions & attendees

UFI released global estimates in 2009, related to exhibition events with a minimum of 500 sqm of net space. The market size, for the year 2008, was estimated to represent a minimum of 31,400 exhibitions per year corresponding to 109 million sqm of total net exhibition space.

It was estimated that these events would attract an estimated 2.9 million direct exhibiting companies and over 260 million visitors. The 10 major national markets, in terms of total net square meters of exhibition space rented in 2008, were: USA (25.0 million), China (12.3 million), Germany (9.3 million), Italy (6.5 million), France (5.9 million), Spain (4.6 million), Japan (3.3 million), Russia (3.0 million), UK (3.0 million) and Brazil (2.5 million).

UFI regularly produces some consolidated trends on the activities of its members who organize exhibitions. An analysis conducted in 2010, covering the 2006-2009 period, showed a positive trend in total space rented during the 2006-2008 period (+7% between 2007 and 2006, and +5% between 2008 and 2007) which ended in 2009 (-16% between 2009 and 2008).

As many large events are biennial, a better picture is seen based on an average two year trends.  In this case the progression of 2007/2008 when compared to 2006/2007 (+6%) has been neutralized by the drop measured in 2008/2009 (-6%), and as a result, the 2008/2009 level of activity is equivalent to the one on 2006/2007. However, not all regions performed the same way: the volume of exhibition activity in Asia/Pacific increased by more than 15% between 2008/2009 and 2006/2007, whereas it decreased slightly in the Americas and in Europe and only slightly increased in the Middle East and Africa.


Exhibition organizers

The exhibition industry is largely fragmented. Based on annual average numbers for 2008 and 2009 provided by 183 UFI organizing companies (and their subsidiaries) that represent more than 90% of the total UFI Membership activity, 86 companies rent up to 50,000 sqm in total on a yearly basis.  On the other hand 15 organizers rent more than 500,000 sqm. 72% of UFI organizers operate in their own country only while 15 UFI members (8%) operate in 3 or 4 regions.


Global Exhibition Barometer

The 6th barometer survey, conducted in June 2011, provides an insight into the impact of the economic crisis on the exhibition industry since the end of 2008. Globally speaking, a “bottom-out” effect for the decrease in turnover occurred during the first half of 2010 for around 6 respondents out of 10, who also declared an increase of their turnover for the second half of 2010.

Their 2010 operating profits compared to  2008 and 2009 increased by more than 10% for 4 respondents out of 10 and remained stable (between -10% and +10%) for another 4 out of 10. More than 7 companies out of 10 also expect an increase of their turnover during the first half of 2011 but 6 respondents out of 10 consider that their exhibition business still suffers from the impact of the economic crisis. However, there are significant differences across the various regions of the world.

Companies were also asked to identify the three most important issues for the coming year out of a proposed list of seven and the order is: the “State of the national/regional economy” (mentioned by 23% of respondents and listed as the most important issue for 30% of them), followed by the “Internal management challenges” (e.g. finance, human resources, staff, training) which was mentioned by 20% of respondents and listed as the most important issue for 10% of them (but this varies greatly from one region to another) and finally the “Global economic uncertainty” (mentioned by 19% of respondents and listed as the most important issue for 20% of them, but that also varies significantly from one region to another).

Other issues identified were: “Environmental challenges (customer expectations, regulations, etc.)” which was mentioned by 9% of the respondents; “competition from other media (ex. internet, virtual trade shows, social media)” which was also mentioned by 6% of the respondents; “Integration with other media” (ex. internet, virtual trade shows, social media) was mentioned in the top 3 priority by 5% of respondents and a remaining 2% chose “Other”, mainly specifying “international competition”.

The results of the next survey, conducted in June 2011, will be released in July 2011.


For more information, please consult www.ufi.org



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