Exhibitions Contribute $11.7B to UK Economy: New Study Reveals

Crowd of people walking at a trade show

Skift Take

Despite the decline in numbers compared to the pre-Covid era, a recent study on the value of the exhibitions industry in the UK presents encouraging figures for 2022, suggesting a complete recovery is not far out.

New economic impact figures released today in a report by the UK’s Events Industry Alliance (EIA) show that the exhibitions are close but still lagging behind 2018 levels. The study aims to quantify the economic significance of exhibitions in the United Kingdom. The study was carried out by Oxford Economics (OE) in the same format in 2019 (with 2018 data), with previous editions in different formats in 2005 and 2011.

According to the report, the UK exhibition industry funneled $11.7 billion (£9.4 billion) in trade and attracted 6.1 million visitors in 2022. Skeith added, “Before the pandemic, we were channeling £11 billion ($13.7 billion) into UK business. Despite not having reached those levels yet, our progress is noteworthy,” said Chris Skeith, CEO of AEO and director of EIA.

A Closer Look at the Data

Comparing the 2018 and 2022 figures reveals some points of interest.

20182022% change
Visitors9.1 million6.1 million-33%
Direct spending (business sales)$6.2 billion$5.1 billion-18%
Direct jobs55,00047,000-14.5%
Direct GDP$3.2 billion$2.7 billion-15.4%
Direct spending per exhibitor$34,710$42,15021.4%
Total economic impact $13.7 billion$11.7 billion-15%
Total jobs114,00099,000-13.2%
Total GDP contribution$6.7 billion$5.7 billion-15%
Source: Events Industry Alliance Economic Impact of Exhibitions in the United Kingdom 2019 & 2023 (GBP converted to USD)

It will come as no surprise that the overall value of exhibitions in the UK has dropped. The total economic impact, which includes the direct, indirect, and induced impacts of exhibitions in the UK, is down by 15%. Most figures follow a similar pattern, but there are a few relevant outliers.

The total number of exhibitions is down by less than 12%. However, the number of visitors is down by 33%, meaning that on average, each exhibition in the UK had 6,295 visitors, down from 8,273 in 2018. The number of exhibitors has also dropped by 31.2%, with each exhibition having on average 126 exhibitors, down from 162 exhibitors in 2018.

The only positive trend is spending per exhibitor, up 21.4%. This trend undoubtedly worries exhibitors, who need to spend more to connect with fewer people. Exhibition organizers will no doubt be banking on the idea that while numbers are down, the seniority level of those in attendance has risen, as shared with Skift Meetings by UFI CEO Kai Hattendorf.

Using the Data to Support the Industry

The EIA works on behalf of the Association of Event Organisers (AEO), the Association of Event Venues
(AEV) and the Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA) to support the events industry through
parliamentary meetings, presenting policy asks and providing research.

Rachel Parker, director AEV and EIA, underlined the importance of the research, saying, “The main
objective of the EIA is to work with Government to effectively represent the interests of business
events in the UK. The results of the economic impact study will greatly support our case. It is
invaluable to us and the industry.”

“The report clearly demonstrates the force of the events industry. We see the opportunities to drive incremental and considerable economic growth and are ready to take them,” said Andrew Harrison, director, ESSA and EIA.

For a deeper dive into the study, the report can be freely downloaded from the EIA website.