COVID-19’s damaging impact on the business events industry has been captured by research showing the pandemic causing net floorspace sold by organisers in Asia to plummet in 2020 compared to steady growth last year.
UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, has released the 16th edition of its annual report on the Trade Fair Industry in Asia, underlining how the exhibitions industry faces immense challenges amid a global crisis.
The report, compiled in Hong Kong by BSG, covers actual performance of the industry in 2019, as well as forecasts for the years 2020 and 2021.
Overall, BSG estimates that Asia will record an unprecedented 75 per cent drop in net space sold in 2020 compared to 2019 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This means net space sold is expected to fall from the 24.5 million sqm recorded in 2019 down to just 6.8 million sqm in 2020.
According to BSG, achieving this result depends on the market in China – which accounts for nearly 60 per cent of net space sold in Asia. If China avoids a significant second or third wave of infections, 6.8 million sqm sold across the region in 2020 is achievable. If China experiences another outbreak and returns to lockdown, the actual results in 2020 will be significantly lower.
Of the large markets in Asia, China is expected to record the strongest performance in 2020 with a drop in net space sold of 65 per cent. Japan, the second largest trade fair market in the region, is expected to see a decline of 75 per cent. Markets with highly international trade fairs, including Hong Kong and Singapore, will post a decline of above 90 per cent in net space sold in 2020.
For 2021, BSG’s forecast for the Asia Pacific region is net space sold in the range of 50-60 per cent of 2019 levels – with China expected to outperform all other markets. In 2021, China is expected to achieve 70-75 per cent of net space sold in 2019 – barring a significant new outbreak of Covid-19.
Also in 2021, Asia’s second largest trade fair market, Japan is forecast to record 40-50 per cent of space sold in 2019, hampered by the ongoing closure of key venues needed for the postponed Olympic games.
Mark Cochrane, UFI Asia-Pacific regional manager and BSG managing director, said the forecast for 2021 was “particularly challenging due to the long list of potential unknowns, including possible waves of new infections in any market, the timing and severity of government restrictions in each market, travel restrictions, and a number of other factors”.
The report also provides a detailed summary of the industry’s performance in Asia last year. In 2019, across the region, net space sold at Asian trade fairs reached 24.5 million sqm, representing an average growth rate of 4.8 per cent across 17 Asian trade fair markets – up from 23.4 million sqm in 2018.
On the positive side, investment in venue capacity continues. By the end of 2021, venue capacity in Asia will be 11.8 million sqm, and the number of purpose-built exhibition venues operating in Asia will be over 280. Key markets including India, Korea and China will add capacity.
Kai Hattendorf, UFI chief executive and managing director, said: “Our industry is currently navigating the most challenging crisis in its history. In 2020, net space sold will fall by more than 90 per cent in some markets – and a full recovery will not be realised until 2022 or 2023.
“With that in mind, the data and analysis in this report are more valuable than ever for UFI’s members as they advocate for government support and plan their recovery strategy.”
The report provides details on the development of trade fairs and supporting facilities in 17 markets: mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam.