ES: “According to The Global Barometer report of July, for the first time in ten years, all four global regions reported a positive turnover development at the same time. Can you elaborate on this, and what do you think is the way forward?
Kai: The global exhibition industry is currently running on all cylinders. The significant growth anticipated for the industry six months ago is now in full swing, throughout all regions in the world. However, at the same time, geopolitical uncertainty and certain industry shifts have led to more cautious expectations in terms of profits. The outlook for 2018 is currently less optimistic globally, with a smaller share of companies expecting a profit increase. We are also noticing that all kinds of companies around the world are embracing digitisation within the industry.
ES: For the first half of 2019, the barometer reports the highest ever share of positive expectations for Europe. Can you give us some insights about the European Exhibition Industry?
Kai: Europe’s exhibition markets are mature and benefit from many ongoing investments into infrastructure. Right now, there are lots of projects underway across the continent that will expand and/or upgrade exhibition venue structures. Alongside the huge national markets in the US and China, Europe has established itself as the home for many world-leading international exhibitions, driven by skilled and well-educated organiser teams.
ES: The report results also indicate that the top business issue for the industry remains the “state of the national /regional economy” (listed by 24% of all respondents), ahead of “Competition within the industry”, “Global economic developments” and “Internal challenges” (where “Human resources” are named as the most important aspect). Can UFI play a part towards sorting out the “Competition within the industry” and “Internal challenges” issues?
Kai: The close relationship between the state of our industry and the economic situation – in both single markets and on a global scale – is one of the foundations of the exhibition world.
“Exhibitions mirror the markets they serve”
- At UFI, everything we do is geared towards supporting our members with successful business development. UFI research, such as the Barometer, delivers industry trends to allow each and every company to compare their own situation with global and regional benchmarks.
- We also gather and share many industry best practice cases to showcase new developments and innovative solutions in areas as varied as HR management, digital innovation, marketing, sustainable development, and operations and services. Many of our members tell us they find great ideas for their internal issues by analysing these resources.
- UFI’s educational programmes such as the UFI-EMD, the Venue Management School, and the International Summer University, provide excellent opportunities to train and educate teams on all these issues.
- And, last but not least, we are a face-to-face industry, so we spend a lot of time and effort on our global programme of industry events – from the Global Congress and the CEO Summit, to annual conferences in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. Make a note in your diary for 14-15 March when we will hold the next Asia-Pacific Conference in Tokyo, Japan.
ES: Corporates are becoming more aware about the significance of exhibitions. Do we have any insights about the average percentage of marketing budget allocation on exhibitions (Globally, Region wise)?
Kai: There are no global statistics available for this, but a few indicators exist. In general, small and medium enterprises tend to invest the lion’s share of their marketing budget into exhibitions and face-to-face marketing. Data from Germany’s AUMA suggests that German exhibitors allocate around 40% of their marketing budget to exhibitions and face-to-face marketing. Another recent study shows that the shift towards digital in marketing spend has not harmed exhibitions – quite the opposite in fact. As spending on print media and TV media is declining, spending on events is rising. At times, we even see money moving from digital to events. Exhibitions are no longer just about spending money on a booth to impress your clients, they are also about how to address your clients emotionally and what kind of values your company holds. In many cases, exhibitions are also integrated into year-round campaigns that cover digital outreach and physical meetings, building relationships with customers both online and on-site.
ES: UFI and SACEOS are developing a joint ‘Asia Pacific Executive Development Programme’. Can you tell us about the programme?
Kai: We’ve had some great conversations with SACEOS about this, and are working with them on a new blend of educational offerings over the coming months. As the educational needs of organisers and venue operations are different everywhere in the world, we do not believe in a one-programme-fits-all approach. Our EMD programme, for instance, provides the framework for many issues, but doesn’t go into the specifics as they are different everywhere. So we intend to combine this with bite-sized, tailor-made programmes, depending on requirements. Stay tuned – we plan to announce more about this at the upcoming UFI Asia Pacific Congress 2019 in Japan.
ES: India has just taken over China and become the fastest growing country in the world, what is your perspective about India and the Indian Exhibition Industry?
Kai: While China is still the largest exhibition market in the Asia-Pacific region by far, India is catching up, as is shown by the latest UFI/BSG report, published a few weeks back. “It states that India’s trade fair industry has been the best performing large market for the past five years. Net space sold increased from 1,065,000 sqm in 2016 to 1,187,000 sqm in 2017, which is an increase of 11.4%. In the past five years, the Indian market has grown by 39%, which is far ahead of the regional five-year average of 27.3%.” India’s outlook is equally positive. Real progress has been made towards adding significant venue capacity in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. This will serve to unlock a lot of pent-up demand – especially in the major exhibition cities of Mumbai and Delhi. If the proposed upgrades and expansions at Pragati Maidan and Bombay Exhibition Centre go ahead, India will be well positioned to record double-digit growth rates for two to three years. In 2018, the trade fair industry is expected to grow at least as strongly as the broader economy – 7% to 8%.
ES: What is your opinion on the ongoing “festivalisation trend” (part celebration, part conference and part trade show)?
Kai: For a while now, we have seen exhibition and conference business models converging – with ConfEx formats becoming ever more popular. We see that many of the fastest growing business events are driven by communities who want to meet in an environment that’s part festival, part coanference and part tradeshow – otherwise known as the festivalisation trend. Here, the quality of the visitors attending makes it highly attractive for companies to invest in a presence, but the focus of organisers lies first and foremost with visitors – and not exhibitors, as is the case with the traditional exhibition model. These developments bring challenges to organisers and venues alike, and there are valuable insights to be gained by looking at other sectors of business events.
ES: There was also a discussion on Digital Disruption by the UFI Digital Innovation Committee at the UFI European Conference. Can you tell us about the solutions discussed towards a customer centric management through digitalization?
Kai: Digital Disruption is a subject that’s been broadly discussed at all our events. UFI’s Digital Innovation Committee gives a comprehensive insight into what Digital Innovation or Digital Disruption actually is, and why it’s important to any business inside or outside the exhibition industry. Throughout the European Conference in Verona, we’ve had many sessions on this topic conducted by knowledgeable experts from different regions. In one such session, for example, Eddie Choi discusses disruption in the business world and how it can be easily explained, thematically, using organisational structure. You can read all kinds of opinions and insights on this topic on UFI’s blog: blog.ufi.org
ES: The theme of 85th UFI Global Congress is The Dynamics of Transition – Our Industry’s Complex Future. The exhibition industry is currently facing up to many issues: from consolidation to digitisation, from investments to restructurings, from fast track hiring to long term retention. Can you elaborate on what can we expect from the event and what will be the takeaways for the delegates?
Kai: The Global Congress is our industry’s largest global meeting of the year. It’s the ideal opportunity for members to learn about topics of strategic interest, as well as gain insight into industry trends and the challenges the exhibition industry is currently facing. We are expecting hundreds of delegates from around 50 different countries, and look forward to welcoming a sizeable delegation from India as well. Sessions will focus on the various dimensions of transformation and changes we are experiencing – from private equity investments to venue developments, from new digital opportunities to the changing show floor. Every participant will leave the Congress with new contacts and ideas.