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Exhibitions

Published on: Oct. 4, 2021, 1:08 p.m.
Hybrid era begins in exhibition industry
  • Will it see a rebound in 2021-22?

By Suman Tarafdar

The numbers are sobering. The global exhibition industry contracted by 68 per cent in 2020, compared to 2019, according to UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry. By mid-2021, the revenue drop for the sector in Asia was 50 per cent. The 27th Global Barometer survey, conducted in June 2021 by UFI, which provides insights from 474 companies, covering 64 countries and regions, including IEIA (Indian Exhibition Industry Association) however indicates “the situation is gradually improving, and there is a strong belief that the sector, primarily driven by physical exhibitions and business events, will bounce back quickly”.

 The India outlook mirrors the global scenario. The events and exhibition industry faced immense complications because of the inherent challenges due to the first and second waves of the Covid-19 global pandemic, says Yogesh Mudras, Managing Director, Informa Markets in India. “With around 1,700 shows in India being cancelled in 2020 alone, there is no hiding that every major player suffered losses. Organisations adopted measures to keep losses to a minimum – costs were reduced, technology was employed to conduct online events, health and safety assurances were given to employees and stakeholders, etc. With consumer behaviour changing forever, organisations will need to factor these into their recovery plans.”  

 “This interim phase is critical to learn, adapt, seek solutions and re-build towards that vision,” stresses Mudras. “The pandemic resulted in an overall business loss of more than Rs1,25,000 crore for the exhibitions industry as no exhibitions were held during the nationwide lockdowns. The entire spectrum of MICE (Meetings-Incentives-Conventions-Exhibitions) employs around 60 million people, of whom 10 million were directly affected by the Covid-19 crisis.”

 The big question going ahead is what the future of the sector will look like. Mudras says a strong rebound is projected for 2021-22, premised on national growth. “As Covid-19 cases decline, there is hope for recovery in the sector,” says Mudras. “With imminent threat of the third wave, safety and security remain the top priority. It is difficult to put an exact date on when a full recovery is expected.”  

 Steps to recovery 

Bringing back confidence will be essential to get back to crowded exhibitions, the appetite for which seems low at the moment. “The future of the exhibition industry lies in the hybrid format, making the most of the offline and online version, as seen in our recent show PharmaLytica,” predicts Mudras. 

 “Using technology and ensuring the safety of consumers are the most crucial tools in planning in-person meetings and events,” stresses Mudras. “Informa Markets created the unique AllSecure – a safety standard – that aims at safeguarding the health and safety of stakeholders, in line with the government’s guidelines to ensure a smooth, secured experience for exhibitors and visitors.”

 “Since the pandemic, we delivered eight live events in six cities, adhering to our Informa AllSecure Standards, including SATTE, the largest B2B travel expo, held in March 2021,” says Mudras. “It will take more time before it can be business-as-usual for India’s tourism sector. However, critical needs such as contactless travel, immunity passports, airlines and hotels adopting new ways of operating, and effective communication with consumers about safety protocols can be addressed by technology.” 

 Adjusting to a new reality seems to be inevitable for the exhibitions industry. “The exhibitions industry will go through enormous change with organisers and venues adjusting to the new normal,” admits Mudras. “Understanding and responding to consumers’ changing behaviours will be essential to the recovery of the exhibitions sector.” The sooner the better for the stakeholders involved.

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