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UFI tracks recession trends in the global exhibition industry

UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, has just released the findings of its third Global Economic Crisis Barometer Survey of the Exhibition Industry. Results of this quarterly survey were previously published in February and May 2009. Each survey includes an assessment of business fluctuations prior to 2009 and forecasts of business recovery expectations. The third edition of this survey includes replies collected from UFI’s members, the international leaders of the exhibition world in 83 countries, the North American members of SISO, the Society of Independent Show Organizers, and the Central and South American members of AFIDA, the Asociacion International de Ferias de America.

The very nature of the exhibition business implies that while it was slower to feel the impact of the recession, it may also be slower to come out of it. The results of UFI’s third Global Economic Crisis Barometer Survey confirm that the majority of the exhibition industry has been impacted by this economic downturn. However, the current economic situation appears now to be taking its recessionary course with less energy and signs of “bottoming-out” exist in several regions. The survey participants who experienced a decrease in gross turnover grew from 66% for activity prior to 2008, to 76% for the first half of 2009, and to 83% when anticipating gross turnover decreases for the second half of 2009. And the first half of 2010 doesn’t promise to be much better. This tendency is stronger in the Americas and in Europe than in the Asia/Pacific region. The latter appears to have been hit to a higher degree than the other regions at the end of 2008 and is therefore in the lead for a turn-around. In terms of operating profit for 2009, the decrease with 2008 is expected to exceed 10% for 57% of the survey participants and will be “more than 50%” for 5%. The number of companies who have implemented cost reduction programs of 10% or more has now reached 49% of the survey participants compared to 40% 3 months ago.

However, within the exhibition community there is a definite undercurrent of optimistic anticipation that 2010 will bring with it the first signs of recovery. 53% of survey participants believe that economic recovery for the exhibition industry will occur by 2010, while 47% believe it will follow in 2011 or later. This current of optimism is greatest in Asia/Pacific (65%), followed by the Americas (58%), the Middle East/ Africa (50%) and finally Europe (44%).

Is this belief in recovery purely a reflection of the natural resilience and emotional optimism of this faceto-face marketing medium, or is it a solid indicator that the exhibition industry has turned a corner and is successfully driving efforts in the direction of business renewal? John Shaw, UFI President, summed it up clearly stating, “the fourth edition of our Global Economic Crisis Barometer which will be issued at the end of the year will certainly reflect the efforts of the exhibition community to find solutions and adapt to today’s “new normal” business environment. We’re in a people business which relies on the resourcefulness of our personnel, clients and business partners to keep moving ahead.”