Present and future of the exhibition sector

Present and future
[:it]Presente e futuro[:en]Present and future[:]

Present and future: the first edition of the report “Italy of international fairs” has been published, prepared by the Confindustria Study Center Observatory, the Fiera Milano Foundation and the CFI-Committee for Industry Fairs, which collects and analyzes data and considerations that tell the cross-section of a sector and its relevance in export dynamics. Data that recount the change in a world from the inside: on the one hand, the passage of exhibition districts, trade fair organizers and exhibiting companies through a global pandemic. On the other hand, an ecosystem that takes note not only of the importance of physical moments of encounter and relationship, as well as of exchange, but also of the importance of considering the digital and the virtual in contiguity with the physical world. A report that also tells about Italy and its businesses – small, medium and large – in the relationship with trade fairs and in relation to the dynamics of international exports.
The analysis is divided into four chapters: the pre-Covid market situation and the shock wave of the pandemic; Made in Italy fairs and supply chains; fairs and exports. Finally, trade fairs and the digital transformation accelerated by the pandemic. The analysis examines Europe, with a focus on European countries with a greater vocation for trade fairs, namely Italy, Germany, France and Spain, and on the United States. It also offers a comparison between Germany and Italy in the promotion of exports by the institutions, of which fairs are a tool.

Present and future: the pre-covid market and the pandemic wave

Solid, stable and growing slightly: this is how the exhibition market in Europe presents itself in the years between 2015 and 2019. Over 380 exhibition cities with a large number of exhibitions of different types, many exhibitors and foreign visitors. From the photograph of the Euro Fair Statistics bulletin, which shows a broad vision of the universe of fairs, we move on to analyze the phenomenon through the narrower lens of the “Basic Internationality” criterion (fairs that have at least 10% of foreign exhibitors or 5% of foreign visitors) and with a focus on Italy, Germany, France and Spain, whose exhibition activities alone account for well over half of the total Europe.
From the comparison of the four countries with each other, it emerges that Germany represents 50% of the exhibitors in the fairs of the four main European countries and 49% of the rented square meters. Italy is in second place for square meters, with a market share of 23%, while it is third if we consider the share of exhibitors, immediately after France.
With the pandemic, we have gone from the drop in turnover in 2020 estimated at 68 to a 2021 characterized by acceleration and braking, still pervaded by a feeling of uncertainty and mistrust, which resulted in the concentration of the trade fair calendar in the last part of the year.
It goes without saying that despite a slight recovery, trade fair turnover has not even remotely returned to pre-pandemic levels, particularly due to international events that have suffered from problems relating to travel and travel, and related quarantines.

Present and future: the role of trade fairs for the made in Italy supply chains

An absence that has weighed heavily, that of trade fairs, for exporting companies and for the expansion abroad of some supply chains. And at the same time an absence that made us understand the key role. In addition to increasing the positive perception of how much fairs facilitate exchange and market dynamics particularly for SMEs, the forced closure has highlighted how much – thanks to the concentration of operators in the same supply chain and to the dynamics of mutual knowledge and experience – foster innovation.
In the comparison between Italy, Germany, France and Spain and the United States, some peculiarities emerge Italy hosts almost 40% of the fashion industry fairs and this sector represents 37% of the exhibition space, 33% of the exhibitors and 34% of visitors. 24% of furniture fairs were held in Italy, and our country hosts 23% of the sector’s exhibition spaces and 26% of visitors. The Italian market share of art and antiques is also significant. In agriculture and animal husbandry, Italy accounts for over 20% for all the parameters considered. In food and catering it has an 18% share of the number of fairs but represents 24% of total visitors.

Present and future: the relationship between trade fairs and exports

The next step is to analyze how much and how fairs are a key tool in the international promotion policies of companies and countries.
With regard to the current situation of Italian exports, the analysis reveals that it has recently returned to pre-Covid levels, or about 480 billion of goods (6% of GDP), but in a polarized way. A recovery that saw the largest and most consolidated companies as protagonists, but not the small ones. And, just p