Global economic impact of exhibitions totals US$325bn

For the first time, the total global economic impact of exhibitions has been calculated. With a total output of US$325 billion in business sales annually, the exhibition sector is on a par with sectors such as machine tools or medical and surgical equipment.

UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, worked with Oxford Economics to produce the ‘Global Economic Impact of Exhibitions’ report, which was also supported by SISO (Society of Independent Show Organisers).

“This truly is a first for our industry,” said UFI president Craig Newman. “This new data will support us when we talk to stakeholders about our industry, especially as it’s broken down into the direct, measurable economic impact per exhibiting company – right down to the economic value of every single square metre of venue exhibition space. And on top of that, it makes me proud to work for our industry, knowing that we are securing over three million jobs.”

The report shows the far-reaching impact of the exhibition sector, which generates US$81.1 billion in direct GDP and contributes a total economic impact of US$325 billion. This ranks the sector as the 56th largest economy in the world, larger than those of countries such as Hungary, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, and Ecuador.

In 2018, approximately 32,000 exhibitions directly involved 303 million visitors and over 4.5 million exhibitors across more than 180 countries. The total impact of US$198 billion in global GDP includes the direct spending and jobs that are specifically involved in planning and producing exhibitions, and for participants and exhibitors to travel to exhibitions, as well as other exhibition-related spending.

Europe was the largest market in terms of visitors, welcoming 112 million in 2018. This represents 37 per cent of global exhibition visitors in 2018. North America ranked second, with 91 million visitors, followed by the Asia-Pacific with nearly 82 million visitors.

In terms of total GDP, North America ranked first with over US$92.3 billion of total GDP attributable to the exhibitions sector. This accounts for nearly 47 per cent of the sector’s global impact. Europe followed with US$57.3 billion of total GDP, representing 29 per cent of the sector’s global impact.

“We are happy to be able to provide this new set of data which highlights the impact of the exhibition industry,” said Kai Hattendorf, UFI managing director and CEO.

“The methodology can be used at national level wherever needed, and we hope that it will contribute to consistent data across the world for this important element of economic impact.”