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Key takeaways

The European event and exhibition management market comprises players that organise and execute trade shows, conferences, expos, conventions and other gatherings across various industries. We segmented the European market by the nature of players’ business models into: (i) venue operators, (ii) event managers, (iii) logistics service providers and (iv) integrated service providers.


The European landscape has a consolidated nature, with each segment being characterised by a handful of dominant larger (but mostly local) incumbents and a long tail of smaller regional players. The industry faced severe repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic, with players experiencing significant sales declines in 2020-2021. At the same time, however, this created a window of opportunity for strategic M&A. Primarily, larger incumbents have been searching for distressed acquisition opportunities in an attempt to implement geocloning growth strategies and increase their brand portfolio. As such, industry experts (interviews by Gain.pro) foresee further market consolidation in the medium term.


Sponsor-led interest has been moderate, with ~55% of identified assets being backed by financial sponsors (June 2023). Event managers and integrated service providers have experienced the greatest PE-led interest due to their strong cash flows and high revenue visibility from forward bookings. However, sponsor-driven interest has been considerably lower over the last ~2-3 years as a result of the pandemic. As the industry rebounds over the coming years, there is a great window of opportunity for investors to step in again and capitalise on players’ top- and bottom-line recovery.


ESG issues primarily relate to environmental topics. The transportation of attendees, exhibitors and equipment to and from events results in substantial carbon emissions. Another area of concern relates to event waste. From a social perspective, players attempt to contribute in the form of social contributions, thereby emphasising employee training and development, as well as by distributing excess food and organising giveaways to non-profits and underprivileged individuals.

Company benchmarking

Market growth

Exhibitions generated ~€298.7bn in total business sales (i.e. total output including visitor sales and leads generated, among others) in 2019 (UFI, September 2022). According to AMR (November 2021), by 2023, the global exhibition market should rebound to ~96% of its size in 2019

Industry experts interviewed by Gain.pro expect the European event management industry to show mid to high single-digit YoY growth in the medium term

European players account for ~45% of the global capacity in the exhibition industry, operating ~500 exhibition venues across the continent (UFI, September 2022)

Positive drivers

Emergence of niche verticals in which event operators can address regional-specific demand and offer experiential elements (e.g. Informa, GL events), thereby serving regional markets. This comes along with opportunities for identified players to diversify their business models and revenue streams (interview by Gain.pro)

Players implementing geocloning strategies (i.e. replicating a successful event model in different regions) can significantly benefit on the back of the potential reindustrialisation of Europe and shift towards deglobalisation driven by COVID-19 (interview by Gain.pro)

Opportunities for additional income streams through digital product development (e.g. digital content, memberships) are expected by leveraging exhibitor data from fairs (interview by Gain.pro). Additionally, most industry experts believe that an imminent push towards hybrid events and more digital elements can lead to bottom-line savings (UFI Global Barometer, January 2023)

Negative drivers

Top-line challenges for venue operators and event managers as large corporations more frequently reconsider their participation in events due to financial and environmental considerations. For example, companies such as Siemens have (increasingly stringent) carbon and monetary budgets to take into account when deciding on event participation (interview by Gain.pro). Simultaneously, Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille have already withdrawn their participation from several watch fairs to focus on D2C sales over conventional third-party retail strategies (Fashion Network, September 2018)

Post-COVID-19, incumbents face significant difficulty in recruiting and retaining talent, thereby impacting agility and accelerated expansion (interview by Gain.pro). Additionally, due to changing business models (i.e. shifting from physical to hybrid models), hiring costs are rising to lock in talent (Exhibition News, September 2022)

Client acquisition is becoming increasingly difficult and more expensive, with prospects frequently exploring alternative methods to promote their business. The emergence of direct marketing and D2C sales channels thereby poses a threat to the exhibition industry's long-term sustainability (interview by Gain.pro)

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Event and exhibition management industry industry.

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