Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

24 Nov, 2008

Exhibitions Sector Faces Turbulence in 2009

Chief executives of the global exhibition industry are preparing for a downturn next year but feel that larger events, as well as those in the so-called Bric countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), will be less impacted than others.

These were among the upcoming trends identified at a break-out “CEO Think Tank” session during the 75th Congress of UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry, earlier this month in Istanbul, where industry leaders examined the impact of the international financial crisis.

UFI members include global show organisers and exhibition centres, national and international professional associations and industry partners, across 84 countries.

Hosting and managing over 4,500 exhibitions and operate 192 venues worldwide, UFI members feel their industry is “still the only face-to-face marketing medium which consistently succeeds in bringing together buyers and seller.”

At the Istanbul congress, the group of 17 CEOs, all of them organisers of exhibitions or managers of venues in multiple nations, reviewed the state of the exhibition industry and options available for dealing with the crisis.

According to an UFI summary of the discussions, “Their initial review of the current exhibition scene concurred that the crisis will hit hardest those exhibitions which are not industry sector leaders.

“In addition the effect is seen as varying from one geographic region to another, with emerging markets in BRIC nations expected to weather the situation with less fallout.”

The participating CEOs agreed that repositioning of development objectives and “belt-tightening” is essential in today’s economic climate.

Think Tank moderator, Jochen Witt of JWC Cologne was quoted as saying, “While projects may be delayed as a result of the current financial situation – all participants feel confident that, with patience, developments will be going ahead anyway.”

The participants stressed that although credit and liquidity are at the source of today’s economic squeeze, the crisis has created an opportunity for the exhibition industry to reinforce customer confidence in the exhibition media through programmes which fine-tune the industry’s services in line with today’s marketing requirements.

They agreed improving customer services would be the top priority of continuing development in the exhibition industry. At the same time, the CEOs recognized the importance of stronger marketing service support to help exhibitors develop clear return-on-investment expectations and product diversification requirements.

“Quality-cost ratios, improved visitor targeting, theme focus, alternative pricing models and service partner relationships are all considered as potential opportunities for improved bottom-line management,” according to the summary report.

Interestingly, the CEOs also identified “transparency in communications with all stakeholders as being essential. The development of new media requires that we work to overcome the weakness of exhibitions created by their concentrated impact in time.

“Increased efforts to promote exhibition ‘brands’ are viewed as invaluable to instilling confidence in the sustainability of our products for buyers, exhibitors, partners and staff alike.”

The industry would also have to more closely “embrace the internet as a revenue source, a tool to improve efficiency and to reduce costs, and most importantly as a key to developing customer loyalty,” the CEOs felt.

Organisers are increasingly developing online visitor/exhibitor “communities” to bridge marketing objectives between exhibition cycles.

According to the summary report, “While the impact on 2008 organiser results is considered minimal, the anticipated down-sizing by exhibitors across the board is already being felt for exhibitions from 2009 onwards.

“Exhibition organiser business forecasts for 2010 are being redrawn across the board in line with even tougher expectations anticipating the lead-times inherent to corporate marketing budget cycles.”

John Shaw, UFI President of Comexposium, Paris, described the current global environment as one “which we’d only read about in our economics books” saying, “18 months ago, none of us would have expected to be facing such a turbulent economic situation.”

While exhibitions have long been recognised as an integral element contributing to a community’s economic health and vitality, today’s technologically based culture is changing the ways in which buyers and sellers are communicating and interacting.

Larry Hochman, former Director of Customer Service at British Airways (UK) highlighted the need to build better collaborative relationship with customers, stressing that “customers everywhere are demanding: speed, agility, responsiveness, flexibility and transparency.”

He described trust and loyalty as keys to business success.

Eric Everard (easyFairs, Brussels) provided a case study view of a new low-cost business model geared to appeal directly to the SME corporate segment. He said, “This business model identifies the product features and services that certain market segments are prepared to forego in order to reduce marketing costs as they direct efforts at making sales.”

Manfred Wutzlhofer (Messe München, Munich and incoming UFI President 2010) and Michael Duck (CMP Asia, Hong Kong and Chair of the UFI Committee on Sustainable Development), both examined options for integrating sustainable management for environmental and climate protection issues into winning business models for the exhibition industry.

The congress also heard presentations on the Turkish and Indian markets by Bekir Çakici (HKF Trade Fairs Fuaarcilik, Istanbul) and Ravinder Sethi (R.E. Rogers India, New Delhi).

Comments are closed.