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Research: When do exhibition professionals expect the industry to recover?

by Joe Gallop

Research conducted exclusively for EN by Explori and sponsored by EventsCase reveals around half of exhibition professionals anticipate that their next live event will take place between April and September 2021.

The research shows a further 22% of people were unsure about the return date.

It also aimed to get a sense of what the industry will look like in the future and when, if at all, respondents expect it to fully recover.

Digging deeper into the findings 13% of respondents think their next event will take place between October and December this year and another 8% that it will not come until 2022.

When it comes to new launches in the exhibition sphere, the research finds that around three in ten (31%) organisers and venues are planning to do so this year.

The continued uncertainty among hiring managers was evident as over a third of respondents (34%) were unsure when their company will next be recruiting. 11% said they were doing so now and 20% believed this will happen in the second half of 2021.

This uncertainty, however, is more pertinent among small companies. A significantly higher proportion of this sub-section of respondents say they ‘don’t know yet’ in regard to a timeline for recruiting. 40% express this doubt, with just 7% saying they are already recruiting.

The opposite is true for mid-sized companies; a notably smaller proportion than average are unsure about when recruitment will be re-started (11%) whilst over a quarter (26%) indicate recruitment has already begun.

While the vast majority (90%) expect the events industry to return to its pre-pandemic levels of activity at some point, there is little consensus on when this will actually happen. Few are optimistic of a full return in 2021 (9%), with 21% feeling this will come in the first half of next year and 27% in the second half of 2022.

Twenty-three percent think it will happen a year later, in 2023, with just 11% believing we will have to wait until after 2023 to see a return to pre-pandemic levels.

Finally, when asked about their concerns regarding exhibitions, the most common is that exhibitors may look to reduce the number of shows they operate at.  76% cited this, making it the most widely held concern.

According to Explori and UFI’s Global Recovery Insights (conducted 2020), 38% of exhibitors expect to operate at trade shows less frequently in the future, mainly citing concerns about visitor numbers and safety.

However, the Global Exhibitor Insights study conducted by Explori in 2019, showed that 27% of exhibitors were planning to participate in fewer shows, again with visitor numbers cited as the most common concern.  This suggests that the pandemic has slightly accelerated what was a longer-term trend of marketers shifting some focus (and budget) to digital channels.

Followed by concerns of reduced exhibiting frequency, the respondents to the EN survey’s other main concerns were that exhibitors may focus on other channels (66%), as well as reducing stand sizes (65%).

This was followed by concerns that exhibitors’ business may go under (cited by 59%) and that they may choose not to exhibit in the countries where respondents are currently holding their events (31%).

Further research will be revealed in the coming weeks.

The report was created by Explori and sponsored by EventsCase. It was further supported by Farnborough International and Collaborate Global.


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