UFI in conjunction with mdg, a Freeman company, presented, “Rebuilding International Participation” at Freeman’s offices in the Washington, DC area on May 31st as a pre-ECEF Conference seminar. Speakers were Anjia Nicolaidis and Vinnie Polito, mdg, Caitlin Reed and Adeline Vancauwelaert, UFI, and Mary Larkin, Diversified Communications and UFI Past-Chair.

Mary set the stage by sharing the most recent UFI Global Barometer results which showed organizers are optimistic but not complacent, with 71% expecting to reach or exceed their 2019 turnover. However, there is still much to do post-Covid. The Barometer indicated the top challenges for our industry are: covid remaining in play, management issues (including a possible global recession, lack of personnel, supply chain shortages), and a lag in digitalization. The Barometer also predicts that as COVID wains, sustainability will come to the forefront in importance to the industry. She also presented a global industry update.

Anjia then shared ideas on focusing recruitment efforts primarily on where and when to recruit international visitors to your shows. To pinpoint countries you plan to attract, start with the basics – who will be able to travel to your show? What is their status for vaccinations, airlift capability, quarantine regulations upon returning home, and status of visa operation?

With the backlog in some countries for US visas, Mary suggested targeting some of the 40 Visa Waiver Countries, whose citizens don’t need visas to enter the US.

To pinpoint your best options for attracting international visitors, Anjia suggested using data from past shows to see what the priority countries are for your exhibitors, historic participation, GDP and growth forecast and trade data. She urged the audience to be more “human-centered” in visitor recruitment. “You want to convince people to register and travel despite the uncertainty.” To that end, mdg has successfully used in-country influencers and marketing collateral in the languages of targeted countries for some of their organizer clients’ shows.

Looking forward, Anjia offered two ideas:

1) dedicate resources to watching the international market including supply chain so you understand market realities, and

2) factor in the US Visa backlog in your promotion.

Following the educational session, attendees were hosted for a reception overlooking the Potomac River.