Global exhibition market to return to pre-Covid size by 2023

19 November 2021 3 min. read

Due to the severe impacts of the pandemic, the global exhibition market is expected to recover more slowly than initially thought. However, according to the research, the market will rebound to almost its full 2019 size by 2023.

Often known as 'expos' or 'shows,' exhibitions are a form of experiential marketing, which look to engage an active and highly motivated audience in a face-to-face environment. As of 2019, there were approximately 32,000 exhibitions each year, featuring companies from automotive producers to defence, and attracting over 303 million visitors.

Due to the lucrative nature of the industries participating in the global exhibitions industry then, exhibitors and visitors combined spend billions every year on the process, making exhibitions themselves a significant global industry – one valued globally at $29 billion, and linked directly and indirectly to roughly 3.2 million total jobs worldwide. However, the sector was also heavily dependent on unimpeded business travel – something that has seen that value decimated amid the ongoing pandemic.

Overall market forecast, 2018-2023

With many of the world’s largest corporate exhibitions being cancelled due to the coronavirus in 2020, he global exhibition industry was predicted to see 69-70% of its value wiped out by the end of 2020, making it one of the worst effected sectors by the Covid-19 pandemic. This saw AMR International release a study stating it expected the industry would be worth approximately $8.9 billion by the end of the year.

Toward the close of the year, AMR updated its Globex 2020 report, revising this prediction to $9.1 billion, and suggesting that while the situation was drastic, the exhibitions market should rebound swiftly. On the basis that the Covid-19 pandemic would be brought under control in the following months, AMR asserted that ahead to 2022, the market globally could rebound to 78% of its 2019 size.

One year on, AMR’s Globex 2021 report has further revised this figure – though this time to suggest the situation may be slightly less rosy than expected. Previously the firm was unable to estimate 2021’s market figures due to the volatility of the pandemic – but having watched the year unfold, the researchers believe the gradual re-opening of the exhibition market has seen 51% of its 2019 value recouped. If current trends continue, AMR expects that the market will be worth $200 million less at the end of 2022 than previously anticipated.

Green shoots

While the slower recovery of the sector will not be welcome news in the exhibitions industry, that is not to say there are no reasons for optimism. According to Globex Editor Carole Boletti, the crisis presents organisers with opportunities – and as they grasp them, the market will bounce back quicker from 2023.

She noted, “While the Covid-19 crisis has severely disrupted the exhibition industry, it is at the same time benefitting from some organisers’ refreshed perspective on their markets and accelerated digital developments… Forward-looking organisers are investing in the enhanced role of digital in their strategies and are embarking on substantial digital transformation. Others are still planning to rely solely on traditional events and revenue streams in the medium term.”

While Boletti added that AMR was “yet to witness major breakthroughs” to such ends, the trend towards more digital services provided by exhibition organisers will persist, and eventually serve to complement and extend physical exhibitions. In this case, the researchers believe that digital revenue will grow strongly at 28% CAGR between 2020 and 2023, helping the global exhibition market rebound to “96% of its 2019 size” by the close of 2023.