21 April 2018 
10 August 2017

Exhibition industry: more focus on home markets

UFI's Global Barometer shows a growing industry, currently refocussing and advancing on digital transformation: Globally, the majority of exhibition companies report increases in turnover and rising profits for 2017. Companies are putting more focus on the economies in their respective home markets.

Photo: Boris Wettig / pixelio.dePhoto: Boris Wettig / pixelio.de
Worldwide, the majority of exhibition companies report increases in turnover and rising profits for 2017. Companies are putting more focus on the economies in their respective home markets.
Two out of three survey participants have implemented at least one digitisation initiative. The latest edition of the Global Barometer indicates a shift of focus in the industry. While the vast majority of survey participants reported increases in turnover and rising profits in 2017, top management is more focused on the economic development of home and core markets rather than on global economic growth. In addition, “competition within the industry” has risen to become the second most important business issue. Globally, digitial products and services are increasingly implemented in the industry.

Regarding turnover for the two halves of 2017 and the first half of 2018, at least 74 per cent of respondents in Asia/Pacific and Europe declared an increase for these periods. In the Americas and the Middle East/Africa, the results were a bit less positive: on average for the three periods, 66 per cent of respondents in the Americas and 58 per cent of respondents in Middle East/Africa reported increases in turnover. The reported turnover across these regions was, however, not always stable as the Americas reported a peak for the second half of 2017 and the Middle East/Africa reported a drop in the second half of 2017. In terms of operating profit, most regions maintained a good level of performance in 2016, even though it was generally lower than the level recorded in 2015. Moreover, profits for 2017 appear to be on the rise in all regions, except in the Middle East/Africa.

Top business issues

When asked about their top business issues, the “state of the national/regional economy” was considered most important, with 25 per cent of all respondents naming this as a top business issue, and also most major exhibition markets. It scored the highest in South Africa (34 per cent) and Brasil (33 per cent).“Competition from within the industry” was considered a top business issue by 21 per cent of survey respondents, being rated as the Number One priority in Thailand (32 per cent) and India (26 per cent). Companies indicated that “global economic development” was less important than it had been in previous surveys, with 20 per cent of respondents naming this as a top issue. This issue remains the Number One priority in Germany (31 per cent) and China (26 per cent). Regarding additional top issues, “internal challenges” and “impact of digitisation” take the next two places. Within digitisation, is it noteworthy that – compared to the results from summer 2016 – the share of companies citing “new digital products” as a major topic has grown from 36 per cent to 61 per cent.


With digitisation accelerating in businesses around the world, this edition of the Global Barometer also focusses on the state of digital activity in the exhibition industry, providing for the first time ever an overview of activities in this field on a global level. Results show that the majority of companies have responded to the accelerating process of digitisation in the exhibition industry. The U.K., Germany, China, and the U.S. are identified as the exhibition markets who are currently most active in the digital transformation process. Two out of three survey participants reported that they have added digital services/products (like apps, digital advertising, digital signage) around existing exhibitions. This is the norm already in Germany (100 per cent of respondents), and is also widely established in Brazil (82 per cent) as well as in the U.S., Russia, and Thailand (73 per cent each).

The companies in the exhibition industry are digitising themselves as well: Globally, 55 per cent stated that they have changed internal processes and workflows to be more digital. The most advanced exhibition markets here are Thailand (73 per cent), China (71 per cent) and Germany (69 per cent). One in four companies participating in the survey reported that they have developed a digital transformation strategy for the whole company, with Mexico (58 per cent) and the U.S. (45 per cent) leading. One in five companies has created a designated function (like a Chief Digital Officer) in the upper/top management – led here by China (33 per cent) and Germany (31 per cent). Finally, also one in five survey participants stated that they have launched digital products not directly related to existing exhibitions – a development especially visible in the U.K. (50 per cent) and the U.S. (36 per cent).

In line with UFI's objective to provide vital data and best practices to the entire exhibition industry, the full results can be downloaded at www.ufi.org/research. The next UFI Global Barometer Survey will be conducted in December 2017.



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