In the Exhibition Industry, consolidation at the very top

January 18, 2018


Blogger: Kai Hattendorf, UFI Managing Director/CEO

A huge deal has taken shape in the exhibition industry as Informa has concluded talks to acquire UBM. According to a Reuters report, both companies have agreed a deal on Wednesday which would see Informa acquiring UBM for 5.2 billion US Dollar in cash and stock. Informa now had until February 13 to make a firm offer.

Informa’s Chief Executive Stephen A. Carter will be chief executive of the new group, Reuters says.

A merged company would replace Reed as largest organiser globally, with a share of around 6% of the global exhibition market.

By midday in Europe, shares of UBM were trading around 10% up compared to yesterday’s closing, while Informa were trading around 10% down respectively. Reed‘s share price stayed stable.

Feedback from financial analysts reviewed by UFI on Wednesday is mainly positive, but pointing out that Tuesday‘s announcement of the ongoing talks included very little details about a possible deal. Analysts have been expecting the trend towards industry consolidation to accelerate.

UBM has been focussing its activities on Exhibitions and events in recent years, implementing a strategy they call ‚Events First‘. Within Informa, the exhibition and events business currently accounts for roughly one third of the groups turnover. Analysts point out that, if UBM‘s business is calculated in, the majority of Informa‘s renevues would stem from exhibition activities.

Both companies, Informa and UBM, have acquired significant additional business recently. Informa took over US-based Penton, while UBM acquired Allworld, an organiser focussed on South East Asia.

Around ten years ago, Informa and UBM already held talks about a merger. Back then, they did not lead to a bid.

Building venues with profit forecasts, not bricks

January 15, 2018

Antony RC

Blogger: Antony Reeve-Crook, Director, ArciMedia Ltd As

For anyone who missed UFI’s World Map of Exhibition Venues last month, the total amount of exhibition space available around the world grew 7.7% over the last six years, giving organisers more choice in all markets except Central and South America, where venue closure has led to contraction.

But while this overall growth does not explicitly refer only to bricks on the ground where none previously existed, it seems to me that we must not fixate only on new venue development. While there are 14 more venues able to cater for shows in need of more than 100,000sqm of space than there were in 2011, there are many existing large venues that are for all intents and purposes not officially on the menu for private organisers.

The Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (OCEC), part of the new Madinat Al Irfan urban development_2

The Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (OCEC), part of the new Madinat Al Irfan urban development

Or rather, were not. In Poland, management at the 143,000sqm venue Ptak Warsaw Expo has undertaken to improve business by opening the venue to private event organisers. While the venue may have existed since 2015, it has only now become eligible for international organisers.

“My goal for this year is to go to the wider international community and attract organisers to try and work with us,” explained new MD Zaneta Berus. “This venue could be very attractive for the international players who so far have not had much choice when it comes to the bigger events.”

Introducing private enterprise

The same is true in the south east of Europe, where the majority of venues are still under exclusive public ownership and management, run by cities, chambers, counties and states that bar the international investment that accompanies opening doors to private organisers.

I’m reminded of Churchill’s comments that some regard private enterprise “as a predatory tiger to be shot, others look on it as a cow they can milk, and not enough see it as a “healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon”.

In the past three to five years public tenders have taken place in Ljubljana (Slovenia), Novi Sad and Belgrade (Serbia), sadly without success. The result is that trade fair infrastructure in the region, already hardly what you’d call state-of-the-art, does not appear on the international organiser’s radar.


Taken as a whole, Europe retains its global lead on available venue capacities with 45 per cent of the global market share (down two per cent on 2011, interestingly), ahead of Asia-Pacific with 23.6 per cent (up 3.2%) and North America with 23.5 per cent (down 1%).

Outside of the top five countries/regions (USA, China, Germany, Italy and France) accounting for almost two-thirds of the world’s total indoor exhibition space, how much untapped potential already exists in countries or states yet to understand the economic impact an international, privately organised exhibition can bring to their city?

Opening doors with need-to-know information

Perhaps rather than building venues, we should be impressing upon public sector venue  management the positive impact that opening the doors to private event management could have on their city. Plant seeds, rather than foundations.

But how? Influencing policy makers, bringing in examples from elsewhere is crucial. Governments don’t act on supposition or anecdotal evidence, they act on demonstrably calculated forecasts. If there isn’t rigour, then it won’t stand up to public sector scrutiny. Examples of the benefits of inviting private enterprise must be given at local level, not national or supra-national level.

Research on the true economic impact of international exhibitions on a city, as we’ve seen produced in the past by various organisations such as Frost & Sullivan just scratch the surface

New venue projects are great, but to paraphrase Douglas Adams: there’s a lot of space out there.

Using the right information to plot your digital path

January 8, 2018

Antony RC

Blogger: Antony Reeve-Crook, Director, ArciMedia Ltd As

If UFI’s Global Barometer is anything to go by, then the new year resolutions of many exhibition industry companies will revolve around the digitalisation of their businesses.

Globally, 55 per cent of the companies UFI surveyed said they have already changed internal processes and workflows to be more digital, with the UK, Germany, the US and China most active in this respect, while a quarter of companies reported that they have developed a digital transformation strategy for the whole company. A fifth even recognised the importance of a digital campaign by creating a designated function (Chief Digital Officer, for example) in senior management.


As to the approach they are taking, two thirds of survey participants said they have added digital services/products (like apps, digital advertising, digital signage) around existing exhibitions, while a fifth of survey participants claim to have launched digital products not directly related to existing exhibitions; a trend particularly visible in the UK (50%) and the US (36%).

But whatever goals they are aiming for as they roll out digital strategies in 2018, how can a company be confident they are heading down a blossoming technological avenue and not some derelict digital cul-de-sac that comes at great expense both financially and in terms of labour? Many technologies already exist with to satisfy demand in our industry, from data harvesting to at-show interactive tools, and even transactional software utilising the much-heralded blockchain technology (which I will deal with courtesy of expert advice in a future blog) and not every penny will fit the slot.

UBM’s Director of Event Technology, Govind Sharma, says that while we can ask our attendees what they want, to have any success we will also need to watch them and seek patterns that emerge from the data.

“It’s very compelling to interact with customers, do surveys, have deep and meaningful 45-minute interviews with customers on what they really want. But if we look at a trade show that is 50,000 people, then statistically for you to make any sort of decision which is valid, you ought to have about nine per cent of people saying the same thing,” he told the crowd at AMR’s Transform Europe event in December.

networking at transform

“So while it’s an important input – and any organiser that has identified a use case will value this input – there are other avenues that provide us with customer insight. One is the behavior of data; whatever data we can capture, and whatever pain points that we can establish are coming across. Another is like the Apple analogy: let’s throw an iPhone to them and see if they find value. Or let’s throw Facebook at them an see if they find value. Nobody went to Mark Zuckerberg and said ‘hey, you didn’t interview them first’.

“There is an element of trial; we start with a small prototype and work up. We do alpha, beta and then live; design thinking. The philosophy remains, we need to understand that we’re solving a customer pain point with the use of technology. Ask them questions, then look at the behavioral data, and thirdly just let them play with the technology that you think works.”

And of course even with the best data in the world, the chance of failure is high; nothing worth having ever came easy. The trick here is to embrace failure as part of the journey. To borrow from Mandela: we never lose, we either win or learn.

You can’t win if you don’t try

January 4, 2018


Blogger: Stephanie Selesnick, President of International Trade Information, Inc.

A fresh new year signals the beginning of Award Season. In the United States, films are being considered for Academy Awards, records and songs nominated for Grammy Awards, and designers are vying to have the hottest stars and artists wear their clothes, shoes and jewelry at the events.

For the global exhibition industry, UFI has a number of prestigious awards that may be right up your alley.

Is your company or organization doing something award-worthy? Have some of your team members successfully produced serious innovations in how things are done within your business, and are deserving of recognition?

The Awards and deadlines to apply:

Winners receive: acknowledgement via media releases, coverage in international industry publications, UFI Info and social media; a complimentary registration to the 2018 UFI Global Congress in Saint Petersburg and a speaking opportunity at the same event during a special interest group named “Best Practices”.

Today I would like to focus on two of the above award programmes and encourage you strongly to take part in either of them.


The Sustainable Development Award honors those programs involving not only green issues, such as waste and energy consumption, but also include specific community initiatives. Entries must directly relate to practical aspects of or around an exhibition, not just a general “corporate” approach to sustainability. The 2018 UFI Sustainable Development Award is designed to recognise exhibiting companies that are implementing strong sustainability components in their exhibition booths and related operations. Collaborative entries from exhibition organizers and service providers are welcome.

NGL-Grant-icon-yearMy personal favorite Award is the Next Generation Leadership Grant (NGL Grant). Given to up to five worthy young industry professionals, this is one of the best opportunities to advance both the exhibition industry as well as their careers. This is the third time the Grants are being given out and include a mentoring program, capped off by a presentation at the 85th UFI Global Congress in Saint Petersburg in November.

I highly encourage you to share the submission information with young leaders within your organizations.

Remember, you cannot win if you do not enter! Good luck!

Thailand becomes one of the top 10 most improved places to do business

December 28, 2017

Kanokporn 1

Blogger:  Ms. Kanokporn Damrongkul,  Director, Exhibition and Events Department of TCEB.

One of Thailand’s greatest success stories in 2017 was seeing its reputation as a destination for business events elevated by the World Bank Group’s latest Doing Business Thailand’s position in the report, a measure of the ease of doing business in 182 countries around the world, rose from 48th to 26th – overtaking countries including Japan.

More impressively, Thailand was among the top 10 countries to see economic improvement across three or more areas. In total the World Bank picked out eight specific types of business operation to be enhanced by recent reforms, including protection for minority investors, enforcing contracts, securing credit, starting a business and getting electricity.

This improved rating demonstrates our government’s commitment to assisting exhibition organisers and participants keen to tap trade opportunities in the ASEAN.

Blog TCEB Dec_2

We experienced high levels of investor interest this year from Asia, Europe, the USA and newer markets such as South Korea. So the fact the World Bank noted our efforts to make starting a business easier by, for example, abolishing the requirement to obtain a company’s seal and strengthening access to credit by broadening the scope of assets available as collateral, should convince organisers there is a transparent and straightforward business environment for them in Thailand.

But don’t take our word for it, take the word of Ulrich Zachau, World Bank Director for Thailand, Malaysia and Regional Partnerships. He said Thailand has made “immense progress” in business reforms this past year, with strong government leadership at the highest levels. “With its 26th place ranking, Thailand has risen into the top 15 per cent of countries globally in the ease of doing business – a great achievement,” he said.

TCEb Dec Blog _2

Thailand’s dedication to the innovative industries that lend themselves to international partnership – a consequence of the government’s Thailand 4.0 programme – also eases business operation by encouraging cooperation between the government and private sector to support innovation and digitalisation of the country.

The exhibition industry, as a platform that publicises technology and commercialises transactions between new business and start-ups, is actively promoting these types innovative and emerging industries – giving such companies a direct route to market and aiding the engagement of local suppliers and buyers with visitors and exhibitors from around the world.

And the fact companies importing certain goods for international events can do so with import duty relief, provided these goods are re-exported within a time limit determined by the Customs Department, is one less barrier to entry.

Our focus is on the whole industry. Our supporting scheme ‘Premier Exhibition Access Program’, for example, helps create business opportunities for exhibition organisers who seek to bring international exhibitions to Thailand.

This campaign has already yielded one major success in Thailand being chosen as host of the renowned exhibition Future Energy Asia, organised by DMG Events Global Energy and scheduled to take place on 12-14 December 2018.

We hope our efforts to make Thailand a simpler place than ever for international organisers will make 2018 a year of many more.

How will we remember 2017?

December 15, 2017

Antony RC

Blogger: Antony Reeve-Crook, Director, ArciMedia Ltd As

As we wind down for another year, I found myself reflecting on the key development that for me will come to define the exhibition industry in 2017.

In the private sector we have seen some major development, perhaps led by the entry of Blackstone Group, a private equity firm with funds of more than US$368bn under management, into the exhibitions industry.

Blackstone bought UK organiser Clarion from Providence Equity for a sum reportedly close to £600m, giving it a solid foothold in Europe. This followed its June acquisition of Hong Kong-based sourcing exhibition organiser Global Sources, having lost out to UBM in the final stage of the Allworld acquisition process.

We’ve also seen significant people moves, including Simon Foster’s departure from UBM’s EMEA division in the UK, the second largest private organisers, in order to head up overall proceedings at the fifth largest; Comexposium in France.

In terms of venue development, exhibition space continues to grow; but once again not in some of the places we’d like. There is still a scarcity of international-standard space in Africa and India, and firm development plans are far and few between.

Development of talent has seen much more success. News that a fifth of all organisers now have a designated digital position in upper/ top management is encouraging as digitalisation of our business remains anathema to an industry built around fostering face-to-face interaction.

The youth of course understand digital, and developing their knowledge of the more traditional aspects of exhibition management, as we saw in the inaugural UFI-VMA Venue Management School in Shanghai, which gave 35 students from 15 venues across China a chance to build on their skill levels. This event continues the trend seen elsewhere in the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia’s (EEAA) Young Stars Program, among many others.

UFI will launch the first-ever UFI Latin-American Conference next year in line with the growth of its membership in that region, and the association’s first ever Regional Conference for Latin America takes place on 19 September 2018.

As to how we expect 2018 to pan out, well, insight can be gained from the 2017 UFI Global Barometer, produced by the association’s research division. Regional variation means generalisations are impossible to make.

For example things are quite positive in the Middle East, where almost two thirds of surveyed companies expect a turnover increase in the first half of 2018. In Africa there is confidence too, with 60 per cent of South African exhibition companies reporting stability or an increase in operating profits in 2017.

But it’s a different story in the Americas, where less than half of Brazilian exhibition companies reported a 10 per cent increase in operating profits in 2017, and just over half of US exhibition companies expect a turnover increase of more than 10 per cent in the first half of 2018.

It will, as always, be interesting to see how accurate these expectations are upon reflection in 2018.

So have a wonderfully festive break, whatever your faith, creed or religious observance, and here’s to changing the industry for another year.

5 Trends for 2018

December 11, 2017


Blogger: Kai Hattendorf UFI Managing Director/ CEO

This is traditionally the time of the year for reviewing the developments over the past months and taking stock. At UFI, we did this in early November, during the General Assembly at our Global Congress in Johannesburg. Thank you again for all the feedback you gave the UFI team on our ongoing initiatives, activities and projects.

As in previous years, we also used the time around the Congress to identify the core themes that the UFI team feels will impact the global exhibition industry in 2018. So today, let me share with you “UFI’s 5 trends to watch in 2018”:

1. The seemingly stable core
Despite political tensions, a rise in protectionism, and a perceived fragility of free trade, both the global economy and the exhibition industry as a whole are growing at a higher rate than expected. Organisers of conferences and exhibitions are benefitting from a shift in the way marketing budgets are allocated, with various research showing that companies are spending less on advertising and more on live events (and digital  marketing). On the venue side, our own research shows that, in all parts of the world,  venue capacities are expanding – a very strong signal that (mainly public) investors are expecting our industry to deliver revenues and profits for many years to come – based on the resilience and adaptability our industry has shown again and again in the past. However, as our industry always follows market developments, growth cannot be taken for granted, and systemic growth can only come from expanding our industry’s offerings.

2. The data points to digital
At the same time, the industry’s resilience and adaptability are facing perhaps their biggest test – and opportunity – yet, through the continuous rise in the volume of data and the shift towards digitisation. We know that, globally, CEOs in our industry are focusing their organic investments and attention increasingly on two areas: building new business models for a data-driven marketing environment, and on future-proofing the existing, square meter-based business models through new products. Meanwhile, investments in existing products will be reduced. UFI’s Digitisation Index shows that, as an industry, we have begun to digitise ourselves – a simple necessity if we want to stay relevant for companies who are building complex solutions to directly interact with their customers, effectively cutting out whole segments of the traditional value chain.

3. The blurring of the lines
Besides data, another major trend picking up steam is the “blurring of the lines” between historically separate event formats like exhibitions, congresses, and conferences – this will continue and intensify. Many of the fastest growing business events are currently managed by “accidental organisers”. Driven by a need from digital communities to meet face-to-face, hybrid formats like the Web Summit have evolved – part festival, part onference, part exhibition. In addition, more and more entertainment elements are being blended into B2B events as well, as they are adapted to changing audiences. As hybrid business events thrive, we will see more collaboration, maybe even mergers, between these new organisers, established association congresses and forprofit exhibition organisers.

4. The quest for talent and skills
Organisers and venues are rethinking who they need to hire and what skills they need to add. The evolution of our business will increasingly be shaped by a new and somewhat younger group of leaders, many of whom are currently rising fast through the ranks of the international players of our industry. A significant number of talent programmes around the world are now offering additional opportunities for future leaders to stand out and be noticed. At the same time, education programmes still need to be developed to provide sufficient qualified talent for everyday needs, especially on the venue side. Simultaneously, our industry will focus even more on bringing in leadership and skills from other sectors, and will look to add more diversity to the top levels of management. To facilitate all this, the focus of HR within companies is shifting towards more investment in people.

5. The challenge of security
Against a backdrop of attacks on the public around the world, our industry will have to find the right answer to the challenge of security at events. Over the past year, organisers and venues have been collaborating more closely to minimise risk.
There is no “one size fits all”, no single “check list” solution for all the different types of events. Security measures are defined by local law, cultures and threat levels, not by a global case study. The biggest challenge for exhibitions: whilst venues often know local procedures best, exhibitors and visitors will always look to the organiser for solutions.
Here, probably more so than in many other areas, security for everyone at events will be shaped by the level of collaboration between all the parties involved, including the service providers.


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