The UK Exhibition Industry: Report & Statistics 2024

Author: London Display Team

Published: 24th April 2024

The UK exhibition industry is a vital part of the economy, fostering innovation, driving trade, and creating jobs. After facing challenges due to the pandemic, the industry has experienced a remarkable comeback, showcasing its resilience and adaptability. Here’s a look at some key statistics that paint a positive picture:


Number of Exhibitions in 2023
Estimated Jobs Supported
Est. Number of Visits in 2023
0 m
Number of Exhibitions in 2023
£ 0 b

Overview and Economic Impact:

  • Economic Contribution: The UK exhibition sector significantly supports the economy with contributions over £4 billion to GDP and direct spending by exhibitions amounting to £4.1 billion.
  • Employment: The exhibition sector supports approximately 100,000 jobs directly and indirectly, reflecting its importance to the national employment landscape.

UK Exhibition Industry Trends:

  • There were an estimated 1,016 exhibitions held at the UK’s main exhibition venues in 2023.
  • These were split evenly between trade (42%) and consumer (40%) exhibitions.
  • Two-thirds (64%) of these exhibitions were held annually.
  • The average exhibition occupied a venue for 4.7 days and was open for an average of 2.3 days. Consumer exhibitions were typically longer than trade exhibitions.
  • There were an estimated 6.92 million visits to exhibitions at the UK’s main exhibition venues in 2023.
  • The typical (median) event attendance was 3,000 visitors.
  • 52% of visitors are more likely to visit a stand if they offer a giveaway.
  • The average attendee spends 5.5 hours at a trade show.
  • 71% of SMEs have generated new business through face-to-face networking at trade shows.

Sector Recovery and Growth:

  • Impact of Covid-19: The global exhibition industry shrank by 68% in 2020 due to the pandemic.
  • There has been a strong recovery post-COVID, with revenue reaching 104% of the 2019 figures in 2023 and expected to slightly rise in 2024.
  • Operating profits and company turnovers have shown significant improvements post-pandemic.
  • Positive Recovery: The total number of “event days” and gross exhibition space sold in 2023 is similar to pre-pandemic figures, indicating a strong recovery.
  • Shifting Focus: Conferences and new consumer events are on the rise, suggesting a potential shift in industry focus, with these segments driving growth.

exhbition industry recovery from covid

Operational Insights:

  • A mix of trade and consumer shows dominate, with the busiest months being March, September, October, and November.
  • Major venues like ExCeL London and the NEC play crucial roles, hosting a significant number of these events.

Exhibitor Insights:

  • Influence of Costs and Attendee Quality: 61% of exhibitors stated that unpredictable costs significantly influence their participation decisions, whereas 93% emphasised that the quality of attendees is the most critical factor.
  • Lead Quality and Success Metrics: For exhibitors, the quality of leads is the primary measure of success (67% in the current year up from 63% last year). Other success metrics include actual sales (51%), number of leads (50%), and potential sales (42%).
  • Importance of Event Components: The top components for exhibitors are lead generation (35%), brand impact (25%), sales (24%), and lead nurturing (17%).
  • Exhibitor Demographics: There has been a notable demographic shift with 46% of exhibit marketers now being female (up from 41%) and the average age decreasing.
  • Preferences for Event Packages: A significant majority (64%) prefer turnkey, all-inclusive exhibit packages to simplify their event participation.

Attendee Insights:

  • Immersive Experiences: Highly valued by 64% of respondents, immersive experiences significantly enhance attendee satisfaction.
  • Customised Agendas: 45% appreciate having personalised schedules that cater to their interests.
  • Tech Innovations: 44% of attendees are influenced positively by the use of advanced technology at events.
  • Atmosphere: The general ambiance and environment are important for 43% of the participants.
  • Quality Food & Beverage: This is crucial for 28%, showing the importance of catering to overall event experience.
  • After-Hours Events: Social events are also significant, with 28% citing them as a key factor in their event experience.
  • Comfortable Seating: Comfort during events matters to 22% of the attendees.
  • Gamification and Natural Lighting: Each attracts attention and preference from 6% of the crowd.
  • Wellness Activations: Activities like yoga or meditation are valued by 3%, reflecting a niche but important area to consider for enhancing attendee experience.

Technological Integration and Future Outlook:

  • Generative AI and digital technologies are increasingly being integrated, particularly in areas like customer relations and event management.
  • Positive growth trends are expected to continue with expansions planned in operations and workforce development.

Comparative Analysis:

  • Comparatively, the UK’s exhibition industry is robust, with growth and recovery rates aligning closely with global trends observed in other leading markets such as the USA, Germany, and the UAE.

Industry Resilience on Display

The UK exhibition industry has demonstrated its ability to adapt and overcome challenges. Despite the pandemic’s impact, the number of exhibitions has bounced back significantly. Additionally, the rise of smaller, focused events highlights the industry’s ability to innovate and cater to evolving market needs.

With a strong recovery underway and a focus on new formats like conferences and consumer events, the UK exhibition industry is poised for continued growth. This positive outlook creates exciting opportunities for businesses to showcase their products, forge connections, and drive success through well-designed exhibition stands.