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Towards resilience - the future of the trade fair industry

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A place for meetings and fun, technology supporting establishing relationships, a way to build mental well-being and fight the phenomenon of loneliness − these are trade fairs of the future. Grupa MTP and the infuture.institute, whose founder and CEO is Natalia Hatalska, created the ‘Future of the exhibition industry’ report.

The main slogan of the report is ‘resilience’, that is the ability to adapt to changing conditions, regardless of their scale and strength. It is the ability to quickly recover lost or weakened forces; resistance; the ability to bounce quickly. It is a skill that is indispensable in the world around us, not only in the meetings industry, but in business in general.

Many factors have had a significant impact on the meetings industry in recent times − the COVID-19 pandemic, war, economic crisis, digital transformation, deglobalisation, climate change and demographic change. On the basis of existing data, interviews with experts and quality workshops, the factors that have or will have an impact on changes taking place in the exhibition industry have been diagnosed.

The most frequently mentioned change factors are those related to the influence of new generations (generations Z and Alpha; Zalpha). Secondly, there were technological factors, especially those related to big data. In the following, factors such as running out of resources (raw material crisis), economic crisis, interrupted supply chains, ageing society, health crises and wars of influence were mentioned.
The most frequently mentioned change factors are those related to the influence of new generations (generations Z and Alpha; Zalpha). Secondly, there were technological factors, especially those related to big data. In the following, factors such as running out of resources (raw material crisis), economic crisis, interrupted supply chains, ageing society, health crises and wars of influence were mentioned.

The report is a picture of the current state and scenarios for the future that allow a better understanding of how the MICE industry can function in the new reality and what a changing society expects from it. The premiere of the report takes place during the European UFI Conference, i.e. a meeting of the leaders of the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, which for the first time in history takes place on MTP Poznań Expo fairgrounds and Poznań Congress Centre.

− Today, facing the advancing technological transformation, climate change, social tensions, demographic changes and the economic crisis, the fair industry is trying to redefine itself. It is certainly not an easy task. At the same time, I am convinced that MTP Poznań Expo will manage to write another interesting chapter in its history − although it will certainly look different than what we have already got used to − says Natalia Hatalska, CEO, Founder, infuture.institute.

MICE market

The MICE industry is an important part of the economy. Only in Poland it is responsible for 1.5% of GDP, and the global market value just before the pandemic in 2019 was USD 1.2 billion. At the same time, it is the industry most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Polish companies from the meetings and events industry recorded a decrease in revenues by 73% in 2020.

Challenges for the industry

The current function of MTP Poznań Expo favouring the establishment of business partnerships will cease to play the main role. MTP Poznań Expo will become something more than a place to conclude business contracts and search for contractors − it will become a more engaging place, open to residents, accessible to various groups, and having an entertainment and educational function.

Classic trade fairs are a perfect place to meet the need for contact with others, especially since currently − after two years of the pandemic, lockdowns, quarantines, remote work − people have a greater need for face-to-face meetings. 71% of respondents agree with
the statement that participation in traditional fairs satisfies their need for contact with other people. The respondents are also much more willing to declare their participation in stationary fairs.

Technologies are to be, above all, a tool that should support trade fair organisers in order to provide visitors with a better quality of experience, and to provide exhibitors with conditions conducive to establishing business contacts.

The progressive digitisation of the exhibition industry, economic factors and demographic changes are conducive to reducing the exhibition space rented by exhibitors. As a consequence, this leads to a change in the business model of trade fairs and the diversification of activities. In the future, earning money on renting square meters of real space in exhibition halls or offering services related to the organisation of traditional fairs may not be enough.

MTP Poznań Expo becomes an integral, open part of the city throughout the year, not only during the organisation of individual events. − It is very important that MTP Poznań Expo generates income from the diversified activities conducted today (e.g. outdoor, bus shelters, but also organising various events, congresses) − says Jacek Jaśkowiak, Mayor of Poznań.

The exhibition industry, like other industries, is aware of its impact on the environment. Sustainable development issues should be treated on a strategic level, and not only as a marketing and image-building activity.

Generation Z wants to get together

− The challenge is to cope with demographic changes − concerning both young people who were already born in the digital world and the ageing society. We have already made strategic decisions to prepare the infrastructure and event formats to match these changing requirements for the MICE industry. Hence the investments on the premises of MTP Poznań Expo, the diversification of activities and the organisation of events for enthusiasts or mega-events − says Tomasz Kobierski, President of the Management Board of Grupa MTP.

Generation Z is often referred to today as the Zombie generation, constantly staring at phone screens, unable to build relationships in the physical world. This is a harmful stereotype repeated by various groups responsible for designing solutions, recruiting or implementing products and services.

Keep in mind that it is still important for Gen Z to build relationships in the real world. Trade fairs may become a space enabling new generations to meet, thus building a positive image in this group. As many as 95% of respondents declare that trade fairs organised in the real world make it easy to establish relationships. It is therefore a potential for new directions and looking for opportunities for the exhibition industry. A big problem when it comes to addressing Zalph’s needs in the future will also be the issue of the increasing phenomenon of loneliness. Trade fairs can be a place that, by enabling a physical form of contact, will be conducive to unintentional interactions, which is one of the elements of building mental well-being.