The third edition of the Global Recovery Insights 2021 report, conducted by the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) and the Society for Independent Show Organisers (SISO) has been released by UFI and Explori, 19 October.
This latest in the quantitative global survey of trade show visitors and exhibitors, carried out in the summer of 2021, collectively gained 15,000 responses, representing trade show participation in over 30 countries. The report focused on five key themes which build on, and can be compared with the findings of previous Global Insights studies.
The study found that demand has returned to pre-pandemic levels for both exhibitors and visitors, with no signs of a fundamental shift away from in-person trade shows. 72% of existing visitors say they plan to attend trade shows with the same or increased frequency in future, with 62% of exhibitors reporting the same intention.
The impact of the pandemic on spend has been less severe than feared and 45% of exhibitors expecting budgets to return to normal within 12 months.
In previous studies, exhibitors have used visitor numbers as a deciding factor, but this appears to have shifted with 86% of exhibitors stating visitor quality is a large influence on their decision to invest in a show, against 67% citing visitor numbers. Where exhibitors are looking to make savings, high quality shows appear protected, with exhibitors using their previous positive experiences to inform their decisions.
Face-to-face remains the preferred channel for networking and overall experience. Exhibitors are not diverting significant percentages of the budget to digital, although it is seen as a way to test new events and has the potential to deliver content and widen audiences.
A new group was surveyed for the first time in this research which was strikingly more likely to convert from digital participation to in-person participation than either current visitors or exhibitors. Made up of senior marketing decision makers based in the US or UK who had not used trade shows as a marketing channel prior to the pandemic, this group expect digital events to remain part of their marketing mix, and intend to become exhibitors at the live editions, suggesting that the digital events that arose during the pandemic have attracted new audiences.
Kai Hattendorf, CEO of UFI, said: “The report gives plenty of reasons for optimism, including quelling doubts about a possible shift away from live events and indicating which shows are likely to bounce back quickly. At a time where physical trade shows are restarting around the world, we hope that these findings will help the industry to a fast recovery and beyond.”
Sophie Holt, managing director of Explori, added: “Whilst the need for some exhibitors to make savings remains, the Global Recovery Insights reflects the optimism felt by the exhibition industry, that live events will soon return to pre-pandemic levels. Budget cuts have not been as harsh as predicted in 2020 and spend is expected to return to 2019 levels within an average show cycle. Quality shows are likely to be protected and digital has opened up new opportunities to widen audiences convert naysayers to the power of live.”
The full report will be shared with UFI and SISO members in the coming days.