- Exhibitions are essential strategic instrument to boost economic recovery, digitisation and the Green Deal
Fragmentation of reopening conditions
Nearly everywhere in the Europe, business events and exhibitions are permitted again, starting the latest in September or – in some cases – October this year. All exhibition centres are in close contact with their local authorities about the respective protocols to keep exhibitors, visitors, contractors and staff safe and healthy. Although in principle the authorities recognise that exhibitions are not mass events like festivals or rock concerts, the regulations vary substantially across Europe. In many countries, the regions are responsible for setting the conditions, which leads to a wide fragmentation of rules and measures applied within Europe. Nonetheless, EEIA welcomes the progress made in paving the way for reopening and keeps supporting its Members in their discussions with the authorities. Our utmost aim is to offer a safe environment at all times for customers, contractors and employees and to create trust and confidence among the clients to start business again.
Exhibitions and business events business still flat – exhibitions cancelled
Even though the conditions for reopening under strict health and safety measures are set almost everywhere, the outlook for Q3 and Q4 is bleak. Exhibitors hesitate to confirm their participation in the autumn trade fairs because they fear not to see the number and quality of buyers they expect and need for making business. This is especially true for the large international exhibitions with usually a high degree of internationality among visitors and also exhibitors. Customers from major sourcing markets from oversees remain banned from attending – as travel is not yet permitted. This makes exhibitors hesitate or cancel. For most of the large international exhibitions the situation is so dramatic that they have cancelled or will probably cancel the entire event in the second semester. The signal that such a cancellation sends to the respective market is disastrous and the losses for the organisers and venues is immense.1 Reopening Europe for international travel in line with the improvement of the pandemic situation therefore is crucial. Smaller regional, national or European level trade fairs are in a better situation as EU-wide travel is permitted. However, exhibiting companies, mostly SMEs, are in dear economic conditions, too. They had to cut marketing budgets and therefore hesitate to invest into exhibiting in trade fairs at this crucial moment when they dearly need a marketing and selling platform.
The exhibition players predict losses up to 75% or more of this year’s turnover. 39% expect substantially reduced operating profits and 46% expect losses.
Exhibitions must be a key element of Europe’s industrial strategy
In order to rebuild Europe’s economy, push the transition towards digital as well as sustainable technologies and practices and achieve the long term goal of a carbon neutral Europe, exhibitions play a mission-critical role. Exhibitions are the marketplaces and innovation hubs for entire industries – regionally, nationally, and internationally. They are of systemic relevance for Europe to implement the necessary changes after the Covid-19 crisis like gearing up Europe’s autonomy in health, succeeding the targeted transition towards sustainability and digitisation, and securing the EU’s leading role in the future.
The European exhibition industry is the global leader in terms of exhibition venue capacity, quality and turnover. It represents nearly half of the global market share of the exhibition industry and it hosts the majority of all leading international B2B and B2C trade fairs. European trade fairs attract businesses from within the EU and all around the world.
We are ready to play our role, offer a safe environment for B2B connections and have no intention to lose our position to competitors from outside Europe. We are an industry that is proud to be both a contributor to local economies and a stimulus for innovation, competitiveness and business growth, especially for SMEs. Attracting attendees and restoring customer confidence will also contribute substantially to the recovery of all travel and tourism related businesses.
Exhibitions need direct subsidies and support to attract clients now
Direct subsidies for the exhibition industry must be included in the EU and national recovery plans. Many companies in the exhibition ecosystem cannot continue waiting and will not survive with no revenue and no perspective. Short time work schemes and loans are not sufficient anymore to buffer the Covid-19 losses. We now need focussed and robust subsidies to allow the preparation of meaningful and successful exhibitions and events for the European companies. Investments need to be done now and during a period when turnover will be far from back to earlier levels.
A recent global survey was produced by UFI. Details in the annex point out the situation for the EU 27 countries.
We suggest the following immediate action:
- A flat rate support for all SME exhibitors of 5.000 EUR across the whole EU for one year
- Lump sum support for exhibition organisers to implement Hosted Buyers Programmes for visitors
- Immediate support for necessary investments by venues and organisers for Health &Safety measures and digital tools to enhance the physical events.
- Marketing campaign for “Business events destination Europe”
We would also like to start discussions on mid- and long-term engagement as key allies for building a sustainable and digital Europe:
- Exhibitions as key element in EU action and projects for core industrial areas, SMEs, innovation and market access – long term programmes
- Exhibitions as key hub for lifelong learning, knowledge transfer, vocational education and training (VET), skills development and network building
- Exhibition industry as driver for sustainability – in energy efficiency, waste management, model transport services, regional sourcing and value chains at their venues and in organising events
- Exhibition industry as driver for digital infrastructure and services with 5G model venues and innovative digital services like ticketing, wayfinding and crowd control, AI for matchmaking, conferencing, hybrid events, innovation spaces and much more
Exhibitions are key to rebuilding economies
Once more, the European Exhibition Industry Alliance addresses you for urgent support to be included in the recovery package and next MFF. We call on all EU Institutions to ensure the coordinated implementation of powerful measures for our sector without any further delay across the whole EU by the Member States.
European Exhibition Industry Alliance (EEIA)