The Coronavirus Impact on the US and Global Exhibition Industry

The Coronavirus Impact on the US and Global Exhibition Industry

February 25, 2020 by: Stephanie Selesnick

A conversation took place on this week’s Twitter #Expochat, devoting the entire discussion to the Coronavirus and its impact on the US and global exhibition industry. Industry leaders Kai Hattendorf, Managing Director/CEO of UFI, David Audrain, Executive Director of SISO, and Julius Solaris from Skift’s EventMB joined me as moderator. PCMA also was active on the chat. 

Large exhibitors in the US and Europe are cancelling booths and sponsorships due to fears of the virus spreading – or is it because they are afraid of being sued if employees take ill? Some US shows are seeing 10% or more of their shows wiped out as Chinese exhibitors are unable to make the journey to the US. Chinese venues and shows all over Asia are having a devastating first quarter of 2020. 

However, far more shows are taking place than being cancelled. At its heart, exhibitions are the lifeblood of many, many industries around the world – and countless SME’s. Our clients depend on shows to see current clients, meet prospective customers and promote their services, products and equipment for the next year or selling season.

ISE in Amsterdam took a hit but have now rebooked even more space for 2021. I applaud how ISE combated social media pressure by cleverly using those same social media channels to their advantage and enlisting exhibitors in those efforts. 

Gulfood in Dubai had over 100,000 attendees last week too. According to TSNN.com, CONEXPO-Con/AGG a triennial exhibition covering over 2.7 million square feet (270,000 m2) taking place in Las Vegas this March, is not expecting a significant negative effect on their event. 

During the Expochat, Kai shared, “The impact of the Coronavirus will be felt for a long time to come. We will prove again the power of face to face. But we will see pressure on the business models, and more diverse revenue streams emerging. We will bounce back and change as an industry. “

David followed up with, “I worry that exhibitors from shows that are canceled will find other marketing mediums and question the value of the shows that were canceled.” With the news out today that Sony has pulled out of other US shows taking place up through June, they may be doing just that.

I agree with Kai that our industry is resilient! This tragic pandemic may be just the motivator for positive change for all. 

Read the full discussion on Twitter and some great sources for up-to-date information: 
SISO/UFI Joint Statement: http://blog.ufi.org/2020/02/19/joint-ufi-siso-statement-on-the-coronavirus-and-the-global-exhibitions-and-events-industry/ 
UFI: https://www.ufi.org/industry-resources/coronavirus/
EventMB: https://www.eventmanagerblog.com/coronavirus-law (and more on the site)
PCMA: https://www.pcma.org 

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