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UFI Global Barometer: Survey Reports 80% of Companies Back to Normal Operations by Mid-Year; Positive Outlook for Trade Show Industry

list of partners of the UFI Global Barometer which surveys the trade show industry

PARIS — It’s time to stop making comparisons to pre-pandemic levels of business. That’s the conclusion of Kai Hattendorf, Managing Director and CEO of UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, based on the results of the 30th Global Barometer survey, a just-released compilation of insights from 367 companies in 56 countries and regions. 

Not only do 80% of those companies expect normal levels of operations by June 2023, but revenues for 2023 are expected to reach 94% of 2019 level on average, up from 80% in 2022. 

“We can stop focusing on ‘post-pandemic recovery’ and move on,” Hattendorf said. “This 30th edition of our Barometer confirms that the recovery phase is ending in most markets around the world. While every market shows certain specifics, globally attention has shifted toward future challenges. Internal management—primarily staffing—and the need to further develop digitalization are top-of-mind around the world.” 

Related. At UFI, Trends and Trade Shows Go Hand In Hand 

While there is strong evidence that COVID-19 is behind us in most markets, a few, led by China, will take longer to recover. Overall, the proportion of companies declaring “normal activity” has been gradually increasing from 30% in January 2022 to 72% in December 2022. In terms of operating profit, around half of the companies are declaring an increase or stable level for 2022 compared to 2019 levels. 

The highest levels of “normal activity” for the first half of 2023 on average are expected in Brazil (98%), Turkey and the U.S. (95%), the U.K. (90%), Italy and Thailand (88%), and Spain and the UAE (85%).  

The report explored other topics, including hosted buyer programs, with half of the respondents using them. Only one in four said they were happy with the programs and two-thirds reported mixed results. 

In a special trend review for the 30th edition of the UFI Barometer, a significant 30% of respondents ranked the “Impact of digitalization/Competition with other media” as their most pressing issue (almost doubling from 14% in 2015), replacing “Global economic developments/State of the economy in the home market,” which is still a major concern for 29% of respondents in 2022. A majority of the respondents (57%) said they believe there is “A push towards hybrid events, more digital elements at events,” showing the digital components utilized throughout the pandemic are still applicable. The “Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the business” fell from 29% in 2020 to just 5% in 2022. 

For all regions, the key business issue is “Internal management challenges,” with 67% of respondents identifying “Human resources” issues, 31% identifying “Finance,” and 44% identifying “Business model adjustments” within the “Internal management issues” category. 

Overall, the UFI Barometer credits being able to hold exhibitions everywhere, except in certain places in China, with the positive outlook in 2023. 

Learn more about the 30th Global Barometer here. 

Reach Kai Hattendorf at 

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