Events association UFI's CEO views on industry recovery

By Kai Hattendorf, CEO and Managing Director, UFI
Kai Hattendorf, UFI CEO & Managing Director, on how the exhibitions industry is getting back to business with live events, and expanding globally

As the world moves past the pandemic, the exhibitions industry is making a remarkable recovery, thanks to the resilience, innovation, and strength of the community. Exhibition organisers and associations have managed to bring live event platforms back in speed and style. Events in nearly all parts of the world are seeing levels of attendance similar – if not higher – to those before the pandemic. And some shows are even bigger, both physically and financially, than  before the pandemic, driven by pent-up demand. This is especially true for small and medium sizes businesses, itching to network and to refresh and make new business connections face-to-face.

This year, more than ever, we were delighted to welcome the UFI community to Dubai, UAE, to Poznan, Poland, to Buenos Aires, Argentina and to Hamburg, Germany already for in-person conferences. It was a pleasure to be together again after such a long time apart. The power of meeting in person was clear, as delegates were visibly happy to be able to reconnect after a long period apart to network, learn and share ideas.

Another major example is this year’s Global Exhibitions Day (GED), which is an International Day of Recognition for the irreplaceable value of physical exhibitions and face-to-face business events in bringing people together and driving the global economy. On 1 June 2022, we saw the celebrations of thousands of event professionals across the globe, saying how proud they are to be in this industry, and how much they value face-to-face events. It is, without a doubt, a symbol of the power of face-to-face events in bringing people together to create platforms for economic growth and recovery. 

Global exhibition industry is getting back to business

Globally, the exhibition industry is getting back to business. There is reason for optimism, but the recovery is not expected to be linear. The good news is that exhibition markets in North America, Europe, and the Middle East are clearly getting back to it. Across Asia, the power of face-to-face has been reinforced by the challenges of the global pandemic. The appeal and power of face-to-face is evident in the markets in Asia that have since lifted COVID travel restrictions and social distancing measures. Exhibitions in these markets – such as Australia, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia – have roared back to life. The global pandemic has offered a silver lining, once and for all, it demonstrated that in-person events cannot be replicated online and face-to-face business is here to stay.

One more thing I’d like to mention is the Net Zero Carbon Events pledge and its importance for our industry. This pledge is the result of global collaboration throughout the events industry, presented during the Global Climate Summit COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021. It is a commitment by organisations in the industry to make concrete changes in order to achieve net zero by 2050 at the absolute latest, and to at least halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. 

While COVID-19 has absorbed much of our attention lately, our single biggest global challenge is not the pandemic but climate change. Signing this pledge is a way of signalling an organisation’s commitment to getting involved in actions that will make a difference. As of the end of June 2022, 360 companies are supporting this initiative. We are working on the fine print of a roadmap document that will show us how we can fulfil these pledges. 

Kai Hattendorf

UFI CEO & Managing Director


UFI is the leading global association of the world’s tradeshow organisers and exhibition centre operators, as well as the major national and international exhibition associations, and selected partners of the exhibition industry.

UFI’s main goal is to represent, promote and support the business interests of its members and the exhibition industry. UFI directly represents around 50,000 exhibition industry employees globally, and also works closely with its 65 national and regional associations members – 796 member organisations in 82 countries and regions around the world are presently signed up as members.

UFI members continue to provide the international business community with outstanding face-to-face business opportunities.


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