Out Of All Regions Asia May Resume With Events First, Says Kai Hattendorf, UFI Managing Director



  • An overview of how COVID-19 has impacted the global exhibition industry?

These are unique times. The UFI team has been working remotely since mid-March, as are many of you around the world. We are forced to sit still – which is the hardest thing to do for event industry professionals. We want to bring people together – and yet, right now, almost everywhere we cannot do just that. Around the world events are being banned in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. In march alone 80% of exhibitions in Asia did not take place. Hundreds of exhibitions in Europe have been postponed or cancelled. It is the same scenario wherever you look. A strong focus on the work we are doing at UFI right now is therefore industry advocacy. We are doing our part to make every government understand a very simple message: that our industry, the exhibitions and events industry, is critical for any recovery to be successful. For us to be in a position to kickstart the economy, governments will need to help our industry right now. Without economic assistance, the small and medium-sized companies that are the backbone of vast part of our eco-system will not be able to endure the tough times they are currently enduring.


UFI has released a global assessment of the escalating economic impact that COVID-19 is having on the exhibition industry due to the postponement and cancellation of trade shows and exhibitions worldwide.

Excerpts from UFI’s Global Assessment of the economic impact of COVID-19 on our industry, which was released on March 20:

“Globally, the fact that more than 500 trade shows have not taken place in recent weeks is creating an escalating ripple effect for whole industries”, says Kai Hattendorf, UFI Managing Director / CEO. On every show floor, business gets done. Based on UFI data, the orders that exhibiting companies are currently not securing already add up to 23 billion euros (26.3 billion USD) globally. Of this, UFI estimates lost orders of around 13 billion euros (14.6 billion USD) in Asia/Pacific, and 9.7 billion euros (11.1 billion USD) in Europe. As additional events continue to be postponed, these numbers will rise further in the weeks to come. As an industry, the exhibitions industry generates a total economic output of 22.9 billion euros (26.2 billion USD) per month globally on average, translating into more than 270,000 FTE jobs. Based on the current numbers and size of the events not taking place, 14.4 billion euros (16.5 billion USD) of economic output have already been lost. Hardest hit is Asia/Pacific, where the impact is already reaching more than 8.4 billion euros (9.6 billion USD). In Europe, with an ongoing wave of postponed and/or cancelled shows, the impact is already reaching 5.8 billion euros (6.6 billion USD). Calculations for other regions are underway.

  • Has UFI formulated any recovery guide? 

Indeed. AIPC (The International Association of Convention Centres) and UFI have assembled two Good Practice Guidances on COVID-19 as a resource for convention and exhibition centres facing the challenges associated with the impact of this outbreak on venue management. Here is the link to access our recent work on Exhibitions & Convention Centres as Temporary Emergency Facilities https://www.ufi.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/AIPC_UFI_Good_Practices_Guide_TEF_UFIr.pdf


  • How long do you feel will it take before the sector resumes normalcy?

This is difficult to predict as there has been no precedent in recent times. Once we have overcome the pandemic, the need to meet will be huge. And we will need to be ready to produce and deliver as many face-to-face meetings as possible, and as quickly as possible.


  • How do you feel that the exhibition industry will survive, adapt and evolve for the future?

This is the first global pandemic of its kind in modern history, but our industry has repeatedly shown resilience (previous pandemics, financial crisis etc.). The crisis is making our sense of unity even stronger and motivating the industry to pull together. What the industry is experiencing now will be a lesson for the future.


  • What opportunity can arise for our sector out of this crisis?

All around the world we are united in the face of this crisis. After it is over, the need to meet, do business face-to-face and strengthen our industry will be immense. The crisis will reinforce our sense of togetherness and our desire to make the sector more formidable than ever.

  • Which country/region do you feel will resume with events first

We are looking towards Asia since it was the first region to bear the crisis. However, it all depends on the containment measures taken and if they are effective (or if there is a continued risk of new outbreaks).


  • Are you impressed by any government’s efforts to support our industry? 

Governmental responses to the crisis obviously vary from country to country, and UFI has been collating information from the 4 different regions on this particular topic: Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East/Africa. All the details can be found on the UFI research page www.ufi.org/industry-resources/research. We need governments around the world to understand that due to the economic output that the exhibition industry generates, we are critical for any economic recovery to succeed. As such, governments will need to provide help and support to our industry right now, especially to the small and medium sized companies that make up the backbone of vast parts of our ecosystem.


  • Your message to the industry in these times 

UFI is doing everything it can to support the industry at this difficult time. We are all in this together and we need to work together to overcome the pandemic: organisers, venues and contractors.

UFI has made available a number of resources dedicated to COVID-19:

–  We have created a dedicated section on the UFI website at www.ufi.org/coronavirus, with official statements and messaging from UFI. We have put together a list of trusted sources with information about the outbreak, travel and health advice, including on the “infodemic” of fake news surrounding the outbreak, including access to a resource that validates news sources.

–  We are also providing advice for companies on how best to deal with the outbreak, and have included additional useful resources such as links to the Joint Meetings Industry Council, to learn more about the response from the wider meetings industry.

–  We have launched “UFI Connects” (www.ufi.org/uficonnects) a series of regular talks, webinar sessions, and panels that take place online, organised by the UFI team and the UFI community.

–  The UFI blog (blog.ufi.org) offers updates from over 50 member associations around the world. We have opened up the blog so that they can share their policy and situation changes as we receive them – from AEFI to AUMA, SACEOS to Taitra, and MACEOS to UNIMEV and SISO.

–  UFI’s social media channels feature regular updates, including LinkedInWeChatFacebook and Twitter. You can all support our work there by sharing posts in your own communities.

–  UFI released the first figures on the economic impact of COVID-19 across the globe and an estimation of the cost of loss to businesses through the cancellation or postponement of exhibitions and trade shows: www.ufi.org/news-media/media-releases