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The Voice of the Exhibition Industry

Exhibition Industry Market Outlook

2nd wave | Q4-2020


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 new digital solutions, 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 at collecting 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

Visitors and buyers not being willing (or allowed) to travel and cash flow constraints remain the top 2 issues

What were the most relevant critical issues-shift in time of the event

75% of exhibition industry professionals consider visitors and buyers not being willing or able to travel to be the most critical issues they had to deal with because of the shift in time of the event.

This goes hand in hand with a very critical cash flow situation, which resulted in painful decisions for all organisers.

Overlapping with calendars of other events and the availability of venues to re-schedule the event is affecting primarily smaller event organisers (those organizing less than 5 events).

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Initiatives taken during the pandemic

Event organisers are not standing still and waiting for the Covid-19 pandemic to be over

There is a strong increase in terms of initiatives implemented by event organisers during this pandemic.

Workshops and webinars hosted online have now been organised by more than 75% of them (it was 65% in July 2020). Virtual events became a reality, with now almost 7 every 10 respondents who presented it already or are about to.

On the adoption of these solutions, the size of the organiser is a key element, with larger companies offering it more than smaller counterparts.

Which of the following initiatives has your organisation already taken


How engaging are exhibition organisers towards their employees?

How would you rate the following aspects of your job
Does your organisation use continuous training programs

For the first time we measure how much employees are satisfied about working for an exhibition organiser and how engaged they are with the companies.

Sitting at the bottom of the ranking are the education opportunities offered by the company, particularly when it comes to venues and smaller businesses.

About the future…

We are still in the middle of the storm

Expectations about the future are not great as yet. These are actually worse than they were in July 2020.

W2-How likely is that trade shows will be held in the following periods
W2-When do you think your events will return tu 2019 levels


  • 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 the second in October. Respondents are 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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