RIMINI, Italy — The powerhouse group of European Major Exhibition Centres Association (EMECA) venues — 24 in all with the addition this year of ExCeL London — is a strong gauge of the return of the European trade show industry. During its recent 30th Anniversary and General Assembly, held at Rimini Fiera on Italy’s Emilia-Romagna coast, the group reported that all members are nearly fully booked, with most expecting a return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023-2024.
Pre-pandemic, EMECA members hosted nearly 2,000 trade fairs annually throughout Europe, with 500,000 exhibitors and 38.5 million visitors.
EMECA President Ricard Zapatero, International Business Director, Fira Barcelona, said the recovery has differed depending on the sector of the exhibitions and their degree of regional/national scope or international reach. Large international shows with many clients from overseas, especially from Asia, are still lagging. Some industries, such as ceramics, have been affected by the war in Ukraine, while other sectors, such as cars and bikes, are missing deliveries of parts due to interruptions of the supply chains. Some shows are still smaller with fewer attendees on both the exhibitor and visitor sides.
“There is also a difference between B2B and B2C events,” Zapatero said. “The local/regional public is very eager to attend events or B2C shows again, while companies sometimes still have more restrictive travel policies, so that their staff cannot attend, or they send fewer persons.”
It remains to be seen if the exhibition landscape in Europe, and other regions of the world, will continue to face this multitude of challenges, Zapatero said. “We host the majority of the world’s leading international exhibitions in Europe, and we have the highest number of venues, representing more than 40% of global exhibition space. Before the pandemic, the 10 companies with the highest revenue in the exhibition sector globally were from Europe.”
However, the past couple of years have shown that there is no replacement for the in-person experience. “We have learned how vulnerable our sector is when people cannot travel anymore,” Zapatero said. “On the other hand, we have proven that we are able to organize safe and healthy events and there is no reason to ever close our sector again. In order to ensure this, we are teaming up with the European members of UFI via the European Exhibition Industry Alliance to continue our advocacy in Brussels, focusing mainly on the conditions for the autumn and winter in the case of new COVID waves, to make sure we do not to have to close again.”
Reach Ricard Zapatero at (+34) 932 33 2000