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Data on the Global Economic Impact of Exhibitions Released at SISO CEO Summit


Miami — The global exhibition industry generated $303 billion in total output (business sales) and $188 billion in total gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018, according to new research conducted by Oxford Economics, a global forecasting and quantitative analysis organization. Exhibitions attracted 303 million visitors to more than 180 countries, and $125 billion was spent globally to plan and produce exhibitions, travel to exhibitions by exhibitors and participants and other direct spending, according to a study commissioned by UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, and supported by Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO).

“One question that comes up repeatedly when we talk to stakeholders, law makers policy makers:  What is the impact our industry is having on the lives of their constituents?” said UFI’s Managing Director & CEO Kai Hattendorf, who presented the first-ever preliminary report on the global economic significance of the exhibitions industry at the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) CEO Summit, held March 24-27 at the JW Marriott Turnberry.

“We teamed up with Oxford Economics, with offices in the U.S. and U.K., to calculate the significance of global exhibitions today,” Hattendorf said. “The data will be great to have when you go to city councils or government officials to talk about investing in venues and the industry.”

Other key findings include:

  • $77 billion in direct GDP
  • 1.3 million jobs directly supported by global exhibitions
  • 3.1 million total jobs directly and indirectly supported by global exhibitions
  • $67,000 of total impact per exhibiting company
  • $800 total impact per square foot of venue gross indoor exhibition space


Indirect impacts represent downstream supplier industry impacts, also referred to as supply-chain impacts. Total impact numbers include induced impacts that occur as employees spend their wages and salaries in the broader economy.

What qualifies as an exhibition? According to the report: “UFI follows the ISO 25639-1:2008  (E/F) definitions. For the purposes of the study, an exhibition, show or fair is an event in which products, services or information are displayed and disseminated. Exhibitions differ from conferences, conventions or seminars or other business and consumer events.”

The $188 billion of total GDP supported by the exhibitions industry would rank the sector as the 83rd largest economy globally, larger than the economies of countries such as Qatar, Hungary, Sri Lanka and Ecuador, according to the release. The global exhibitions industry directly generated more output than many large sectors, including machine tools and medical and surgical equipment.

By comparison, events contributed $91 billion to the U.S. GDP in 2017, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR). “Recent data shows the economic contribution of events, which includes direct spending of organizers, exhibitors, attendees and venues, totaled $91 billion in 2017,” said Allen Shaw, Ph.D., Chief Economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates Inc. (It’s important to note that CEIR’s definition of “events” is different than UFI’s definition of “exhibitions.”)

The full report, sorted by regions and presented in U.S. dollars and euros, will be available in April, Hattendorf said. The full report will be available at:

Reach Kai Hattendorf at (33) 1 46 39 75 00 or

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