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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