As the Covid-19 shutdown continues to adversely affect the exhibition industry, GRS Research & Strategy’s new report, The Voice of the Exhibition Industry, examines the view of trade show professionals.
The research was divided in four main sections: Current situation, Forecast, Scenario, Virtual events. The report asked those surveyed to comment on the current state of their business and events, what they perceive to be some of the most critical issues they face and what place digital events might hold in the industry going forward. When asked about the current state of affairs, 89% of respondents said that they have moved or cancelled at least one event due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When it came to some of the issues that might affect the industry as it starts to return to business, visitors’ willingness and ability to travel topped the list, followed by lack of revenue/cash flow and the issues that might arise from events struggling finding space on the calendar for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.
In terms of threats that the industry may face in the coming months, 41.6% of respondents cited exhibitors’ tradeshow budgets as an area of concern, as the regular cycle of annual and biennial shows has been disrupted. Travel restrictions for buyers and exhibitors were once again reported as a major threat to the industry.
When it came to digital events, 65.2% of event organisers have already offered workshops and webinars (or plan to do it within the next six months). The report found that 43.6% plan to offer matchmaking solutions, which is considered to be the initiative that more than others will remain post-emergency, according to 87% of respondents who are investing in this direction In terms of forecasting ahead, 73% of respondents said they would have at least one event in the last quarter of 2020 (37% even earlier, in Q3-2020).
Looking to the recovery of the industry, most respondents predicted that it would take one edition of an event before it could return to pre-Covid-19 levels of attendance, but at least two before achieving pre-Covid-19 revenue.
Attendance by national visitors and exhibitors should go back to what it was before within two editions, whereas the presence of international guests and revenues in general will take longer.
When it came to industry support, 71.6% of those surveyed said that the industry needs government and public administration assistance, followed by greater openness to digitalisation and technology and co-operation between events (i.e. working together to great functional calendars for the remainder of the year).
More than 40% said they were not expecting a recovery in terms of revenues and number of international visitors to prepandemic figures before 2022.
Even though almost 50% of respondents think the industry reacted well to this crisis, there is still doubt just how many events can take place in the second half of 2020; 72% agree that support from the government is crucial in order to overcome the current challenges.
Digitalisation, Big Data, and AI will be the top three technologies in terms of impact on the exhibition industry in the coming years, the GRS research found, and the market will benefit organisers who will be successful in providing effective matchmaking solutions and year-round networking opportunities. There is a significant interest towards virtual events, which should benefit participants particularly when it comes to knowing what’s new in the market and participating in seminars and conferences.
These are perceived as short-term solutions to overcome the current restrictions, and will possibly be complementary to physical events, but are not expected to represent a threat nor to replace physical tradeshows.
The Voice of the Exhibition Industry research was carried out in June 2020, with over 550 respondents from around the world. The full report can be accessed on the Expo Network website.