A survey tracking the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the international exhibitions industry has delivered an optimistic outlook for the sector.
Commissioned by Messe Frankfurt Middle East (MFME), which runs major events such as Automechanika Dubai, Intersec, and Beautyworld Middle East, the survey was carried out by GRS Explori in April 2021 and canvassed 2,132 professionals from over 110 countries.
The positive news for the industry is that 75% of respondents believe exhibitions will be as or more important than they were pre-COVID, with the majority of respondents citing a lack of alternatives to the face-to-face business opportunities offered by sector-specific trade shows.
“This is clear validation of the business potential of trade exhibitions as platforms to unearth new products, services and suppliers that may otherwise slip under radars,” says Simon Mellor, Messe Frankfurt Middle East’s CEO.
Furthermore, 66% of respondents are planning to travel by airplane for business this year, in line with on-going governmental efforts to open more international travel corridors, ease quarantine restriction and spur tourism – for both MICE and leisure.
When asked if the respondents believed that the COVID-19 situation is either stabilised or improving – a promising 73% responded with the latter, while a further 83% insisted they are comfortable with traveling to Dubai to attend exhibitions.
“What we are seeing is a shift towards a back-to-business mind-set, with people keen to start taking part in exhibitions again,” adds Mellor. “The current event safety measures we have in place, coupled with the government’s ongoing efforts to make everyone as safe as possible, has had a really positive impact on participation levels, delivery and upscaling of our traditional trade show portfolios.”
Safety sentiment lifts
The survey indicates upticks in sentiment towards personal safety compared to September last year, as well as a 10% uplift – up to 74% – in the number of businesses now sanctioning travel abroad for business.
Some 60% of those surveyed, who were largely business owners, C-suite executives, senior and middle management, said they would attend an exhibition by the end of the year. Those not planning to participate in a trade show in the coming year cited health risks related to travelling and the need to quarantine on their return home as key considerations.
“We understand the concerns related to air travel, as well as health and safety on the ground, and we are happy to report that stringent measures across airplanes and airports in Dubai, as well as exhibition venues, have helped significantly boost exhibitor and visitor confidence,” adds Mellor.
When asked about the main reasons behind attending exhibitions, 53% of respondents say it is to meet existing clients, with a further 50% identifying new leads as a key driving factor when participating.
Dubai receives confidence vote
With an 83% support rating, Dubai topped a list of eight leading international trade show destinations in terms of comfort value for business executives, while 47% or respondents feel the Covid situation within the UAE had improved over the past few weeks.
“This vote of confidence in the UAE and Dubai underlines local authorities’ efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic and safeguard visitors,” says Mellor.
In March, 89% of respondents in independent research commissioned by Dubai World Trade Centre dubbed Dubai as “the safest destination in the world.”
“Over the past nine months, the UAE has successfully hosted a number of large-scale exhibitions such as GITEX Technology Week, Gulfood and Arabian Travel Market. These ‘mega events’ have been delivered to the highest possible safety standards, with attendees and stakeholders consistently reinforcing the urge to get back-to-business in a safe and controlled environment,” adds Mellor.
Although confidence is increasing, the report identified a number of safety measures important to respondents, including the provision of PPE/sanitizer; behaviour regulation from event organisers; guarantees on physical/social distancing best practices; attendees being vaccinated and no new cases in the city/country of exhibition.