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Asia emerges as key exhibition market: UFI

Asia’s increasing clout and resilience in the wake of an economic meltdown are steering growth of the exhibition industry, said Paul Woodward, managing director of UFI, the global association of the tradeshow business.

Combined with the Pacific islands including Australia and New Zealand, he said the budding sector in Asia has expanded more than 50 percent over the past five years in terms of size of rented space, courting 520,000 exhibitors and 47.2 million visitors last year. 
Paul Woodward, managing director of UFI. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Paul Woodward, managing director of UFI. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

“Although the biggest markets are North America and Europe, we’re seeing a huge shift toward Asia, driven primarily by massive growth in China,” Woodward told The Korea Herald on the sidelines of UFI’s seminar Thursday in Seoul on the industry’s worldwide trends and the globalization of Korean exhibitions.

Europe accounts for nearly half of the global tradeshow market, selling an aggregate booth area of 109 million square meters to 1.4 million participants last year. North America claims 26 percent with 28.3 million square meters and 750,000 exhibitors, compared to Asia Pacific’s 18 percent, according to UFI.

The France-based organization sponsors exhibitions held by its more than 550 members from 85 countries worldwide, who are mainly event organizers, fairground owners and service providers.

Since the 2004 launch of the Hong Kong office, UFI has been focusing attention on Asian markets, Woodward said.

“There is a very close correlation between economic growth and performances of the exhibitions industry,” he said, adding that Asia bounced back quickly from the 2008-9 financial tsunami.

Korea has emerged as one of key players in the international arena, Woodward said.

“The market is by and large growing solidly, pulling off well last year and this year too,” he said.

Asia’s fourth-largest exhibition market has expanded at a double-digit rate on average over the past decade, according to the Association of Korea Exhibition Industries. The number of tradeshows to have opened more than doubled to 479 in 10 years, with the combined size of event venues growing 2.5 times bigger.

Despite recent significant growth, Woodward said Korea faces a daunting challenge ― how to boost its international profile and develop truly international shows.

“Korea has to focus on a limited number of industries where Korea particularly has special strengths and interests,” he said. “The government attention to and focus on exhibitions would be clearly contributing to increased professionalism, as it’s exceptionally supportive for the industry.”

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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