Home TopicAssociations UFI publishes global planning framework for reopening tradefairs

UFI publishes global planning framework for reopening tradefairs

by Paul Colston

Global association of the exhibition industry, UFI has published, 5 May, a global planning framework document for reopening exhibitions and B2B trade events post the emergence from Covid-19.

The document, subtitled ‘interim guidance’ was put together with input from major organisers, venues, contractors and destinations, lays out guidance on timescales for reopening and a whole range of recommendations for creating a safe and controlled environment.

The framework is designed to give appropriate authorities confidence to allow exhibitions to reopen based on the assured implementation of agreed health and safety standards. It argues that exhibitions are different to other types of large events, and must be prioritised for reopening to kick-start the global economic recovery.

The framework is put together by a specialist taskforce of partners and industry leaders, whose operational recommendations reflect emerging regulatory conditions around the world. It provides an advocacy narrative on why exhibitions must be prioritised for reopening, which UFI is counting on industry stakeholders to endorse.

All aspects of exhibition design and delivery are accommodated in the framework, ranging from the event environment to a wholesale reconsideration of the customer journey. It sets out to provide governments and health authorities around the world with the information they require to confidently green-light exhibitions once again.

“The ability of associations to lead and help foster discussion and debate across whole industries makes us central to a crisis such as the outbreak of Covid-19,” says UFI President Mary Larkin.

“UFI prides itself on a network of members and partners that sits at the forefront of exhibition industry development, and consequently we have some of the world’s leading authorities working with us on this framework. We hope that the industry comes together in support of this initiative and helps make the framework synonymous with our industry’s recovery.”

The framework is intended as a working document, subject to ongoing input that will be used to provide concrete examples. As a result, the benefit of the framework is not only operational, but political.

The framework includes around 30 items that will ensure that exhibitions can run in a safe environment. It covers areas like personnel and personal safety, physical distancing, increased health and safety regulations, the implementation of crowd control, and the encouragement and enforcement regulations – all before, during, and after the event respectively.

The demand from the global industry to political decision-makers is: “Please be open to proactive framework recommendations for safe exhibitions and authorise these exhibitions with respective protocols as soon as possible”.

The size and far-reaching impact of the exhibition industry are demonstrated, the document underlines, by the ‘Global Economic Impact of Exhibitions’ report from December 2019, which calculates the total economic impact of exhibitions to be €167bn per year globally.

The new framework proposal outlines five key measures to be put in place during the build-up (planning phase), the exhibition itself (operational phase) and following the event (post-event review) to protect all exhibition stakeholders:

I. Ensure personnel and personal safety

II. Enable physical distancing

III. Increase health and safety measures

IV. Implement crowd control

V. Encourage and enforce measures

The document fleshes out these points in detail and follows the ISO 25639-1:2008 (E/F) definitions of an exhibition, show, or fair, as “an event in which products, services, or information are displayed and disseminated”.

UFI also notes the framework is designed to serve as an addition to existing health and safety processes and regulations and should be read in conjunction with the WHO’s Public Health for Mass Gatherings: Key Considerations. It is also adapted from WHO’s interim planning considerations previously released for mass gatherings in the context of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza, and international meetings attended by individuals from Ebola virus disease-affected countries. It is designed to help plan, manage and monitor exhibitions in order to minimise the health and safety risks to staff, contractors, exhibitors and visitors.

The framework, importantly, draws the distinction between tradeshows and ‘mass gatherings’ – saying “a blanket regulation for all mass gatherings will negatively impact economic recovery after the current pandemic”.  The UFI document also says exhibitions are not comparable to sports events, concerts or festivals. “Decision-makers are asked to differentiate here in a targeted manner,” the document says.

Managing Director and CEO of UFI, Kai Hattendorf (pictured), says: “Exhibitions are distinct from other large events. Crowd management, visitor flow and adherence to operational protocols can be tightly managed. A strong framework provides a compelling case for the recommencement and continuation of this vital industry.

“By pledging to ensure the health and safety of all exhibition participants, tradeshows can resume their rightful place as a proven fast track to trade and market recovery.”

UFI adds that the framework will be used to produce another document that will gather best-practice examples for the various areas listed in this first framework.

The new document also comes with a pledge: “To honour this responsibility to economies and societies, as an industry we stand ready to open the door to exhibitions as quickly as possible, striking the right and secure balance between public health in times of Covid-19 and the economic health of societies and nations.”

By embracing and promoting the framework, UFI says the industry can not only ensure a unified approach to their day-to-day management but engage in re-opening talks with authorities and governments on all levels – the bodies that give licence for exhibitions to take place.

The framework document in full, Global Framework for Reopening Exhibitions and B2B Trade Events, can be found on the UFI website: www.ufi.org/coronavirus.


The framework will also be at the forefront of UFI’s Global Exhibitions Day activity this year, and the association will be advocating the role of exhibitions to kick start national economies. For more on GED 2020 and the GED lobbying campaign, click here: www.ufi.org/ged.


The following organisations have been part of the task force to prepare and agree this framework, which is a global representation of the exhibition industry:

Exhibition organisers 

Clarion Events, Informa Markets, Reed Exhibitions, Tarsus Group


Organisers and venues

Corferias, Dubai World Trade Centre, Fira de Barcelona, GL events, Koelnmesse, La Rural, Grupa MTP, RAI Amsterdam


Exhibition venues

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Johannesburg Expo Centre, MGM Resorts International, Shanghai New International Exhibition Centre, Shenzhen World Exhibition & Convention Centre, The NEC



AEO – Association of Event Organisers, AEV – Association of Event Venues, AFIDA – Asociacion Internacional de Ferias America, AUMA – Association of the German Trade Fair Industry, EEIA – European Exhibition Industry Alliance, ESSA – Event Supplier and Services Association, IELA – International Exhibition Logistics Association, IFES – International Federation of Exhibition & Event Services, SISO – Society of Independent Show Organisers and TCEB – Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau


Service providers/general contractors

Freeman, GES and GL events,

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