Staying in sync in an asynchronous world

Kai Hattendorf

Kai Hattendorf, managing director and CEO of UFI

As recently as three years ago, we were enjoying a rare episode in the history of our industry – synchronous economic growth throughout the world. Nearly everywhere, this was a period of growth for our businesses and for our sector. 

Fast forward to today, our operating contexts varies significantly around the world. While key markets like China and Hong Kong battle with the pandemic, the US is accelerating its recovery – although suffering from the highest inflation seen in generations. In Europe, Spain, France, and the UK are enjoying strong show results. However, Germany, Europe’s leading international market, struggles to overcome Covid regulations, which has our colleagues from AUMA appealing to the government to finally end this ‘Ice Age’ for the German industry. We have already seen the permanent cancellation of some international shows and portfolio adjustments by some of the German Messes. In Hong Kong, we are seeing fall out from lack of government clarity about post-pandemic re-openings with organisers moving flagship shows away from that market by hosting ‘special editions’ in Singapore
or Dubai.

Across Asia, conversations are still focused on reopening cross-Asian travel to drive the recovery of our sector. Right now, the developments look promising, with the exception of travel in and out of China.

Added to the pandemic context we are also facing geopolitical conflicts – notably Russian troops attacking Ukraine, forcing millions of Ukrainians to flee their country (see elsewhere in this edition for our industry’s response) – and you have an entirely different challenge for our global industry. As we navigate the challenges, it is more important than ever that we rely on the unique values we possess: On our ability to be agile. On our skills to scale. On our culture to care about connecting people. 

In this asynchronous world, what remains on the agenda is the urge to collaborate, the need to advocate for our industry, and the necessity to act on the climate challenge. Advocacy will take centre stage again in a few weeks with our 7th Global Exhibitions Day coming up on 1 June. Let me ask each and every one of you reading this column – join in on that day.