Everything about forecasting trade show business over the next 1-2 years is problematic, of course. But the impending release of Covid-19 vaccines certainly encourages organisers to start planning the resumption of exhibitions rather than slowly dripping out the bad news of more postponements as many have been doing until now.
The trouble is, of course, that nobody can yet be sure exactly what trade shows will take place when or what will be the impact on their scale of the the 2020 crisis.
Exhibitions consultant AMR is bravely having a go. The latest edition of its Globex outlook to 2022 details the impact of the pandemic on 2020 (a fall of 69% on the previous year) and predicts a substantial bounce-back in 2022 when the industry is forecast to achieve revenue of $22.5bn – some 77% of the peak 2019 figure.
The report’s highlights include ‘bounce back’ predictions based on the percentage of countries’ 2019 revenues expected in 2022:
- 84-86%: China, Turkey
- 79-80%: UK, US, Mexico, Germany, South East Asia
- 72-76%: Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia
- 66% : France
- 58% : Italy, Gulf
AMR all but concedes the fragility of these forecasts by saying: “The priority for organisers will be how to survive 2021 with reduced revenues while investing in more digital offerings. Looking further ahead, organisers will also need to develop a post-COVID vision that addresses a radically changed market, while developing a strategy to make it happen.Changing the mindset of organisers will be key… they should no longer think of themselves as pure event organisers. Rather, they need to become community catalysts – facilitating business, connections, education and advocacy.”
It echoes the InfoExpo strategy outlined last week by Flashes & Flames. Nobody really doubts the merits of the case. But what matters is organisers’ determination to persist with the required investment in new skills and resources, either when exhibition revenues fall short or, indeed, when recovery allows them to forget.
Meanwhile, the pain of Covid lockdown in 2020 and reduced events in 2021 will create M&A opportunity for some. It is easy to predict that exhibition valuations next year will be a yet smaller proportion of those in 2019 even than AMR’s revenue forecasts.
But will the heady mix of cut-price deals and consolidation distract trade show companies from remembering the essential lessons of 2020?