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The Voice of the Exhibition Industry

Exhibition Industry Market Outlook

1st wave | June 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 is putting the exhibition industry to the test.
Organizers around the world are looking for solutions to respond to the closure and shifting of long-planned events.

While developing different formats of digital events, the industry is wondering what will happen in the future.
GRS Research & Strategy has gathered these ideas and opinions by launching "The Voice of the Industry",
a global market outlook dedicated to trade shows and major events.

The Voice of the Industry is an ongoing, recurrent research
aimed to collect the point of view of hundreds of trade shows professionals across the world.

The results are intended to provide a snapshot of the mood of the entire industry,
tracking the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and assessing the strategies put in place
by the organisers to deal with it.

The impact

89% of exhibitions have been moved or cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic


The impact of the Covid-19 on the exhibition industry is massive.

Almost 90% of respondents said their exhibitions were cancelled or postponed.

Only 10.6% of events have maintained the original dates.

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The current biggest threat

Exhibitors budgets and travel restrictions are the main concerns for the industry

41% of exhibition industry professionals are concerned about the reduction in companies’ budget allocated to trade shows.

36% see travel restrictions for visitors and buyers worldwide as the main threat.

The competition from other marketing tools, such as virtual events or physical events other than trade fairs, is not considered as relevant.

The current biggest threat

Recovery will take time

When do you think that they will return to 2019 results in terms of...

When do you think that they will return to 2019_Q1-2020

When it comes to predicting a return to pre-emergency performances,  organizers seem to have very different views. However, it is commonly agreed that recovery will take time.

In particular, there is pessimism about international attendance, where almost half of respondents don’t expect a return of foreign visitors before 2022.

Let's bring them together

What most successful Organisers will offer in the future

Matchmaking and networking are the key to visitors' hearts, according to the organizers.

Being able to guarantee meetings and business opportunities are seen as the key to success for the trade shows of the future.


What most successful organisers will offer in the future

Changes that will last

Initiatives that will remain after Covid-19


The organizers have taken different digital initiatives to deal with travel and cancellations of their events.
Many of these are intended to remain in force after the emergency has ended: matchmaking platforms, webinars and, to a lesser extent, marketplaces and virtual events are going to be maintained in the future.

News, conference and more

How a virtual event can offer benefits similar to a physical event

Virtual events are not seen as a replacement of live ones.

The only functions of a physical event that can be replaced by a virtual one are, according to respondents, the presentation of industry news and the organization of conferences and seminars.

In certain cases, the vision of products and solutions can be effective too.



  • The Exhibition Industry Market Outlook offers a unique understanding of the pressures being felt throughout our industry at a global level.
  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on exhibitions is manifest, not only to organizers, but also to the market.
  • The aim of this research is to share and understand the industry leaders' point of view, their expectations for the future, and how they are reacting to these new challenges.
  • We are grateful to everyone who took part in the survey and we thank them for their time and for sharing their opinion.

About the Exhibition Industry Market Outlook

The survey is sent to a panel of over 2,000 event and trade show organizers worldwide, through CAWI (Computer Aided Web Interview) technology. 

The platform used for sending questionnaires and data collection is Explori. The data are analyzed by GRS researchers, both at a global level and for the main countries.

The first wave has been collected in June 2020, and counts a over 500 respondents divided in the following geographical areas:

  • Europe
  • Americas
  • Asia
  • Middle East and Africa

Participants are granted free and full access to the data.

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