Meetings industry in Europe - statistics & facts

The meetings industry in Europe is an important connector to B2B operations, including business trips dedicated to attending meetings, trade exhibitions, and conferences. Such events allow international and European business representatives to meet, discuss business developments, expand client bases, and form networks. In 2019, visitor spending in the European convention industry alone reached over 90 billion euros, though this figure dropped significantly to 18 billion euros in 2020 and 2021 due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Prior to the health crisis, Germany was the most popular country in Europe for international meetings, followed by France and Spain. In 2020, as the meetings industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of events and participants faced startling declines. For instance, the number of events in Germany fell by roughly two million, and the number of participants dropped from over 420 million prior to the health crisis to 60 million in 2020.

Exhibitions and trade shows

Exhibitions and trade shows represent an important segment of the meetings industry. At trade fairs, companies often showcase products and services from a specific industry, to get an idea of industry trends and network with potential clients. This market, like many other sectors involving in-person events, was also heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting in March 2020, the operations of a majority of European exhibition companies surveyed had reduced or showed no activity. By June 2021, around 21 percent of businesses began to be fully operative, and 55 percent expected to be fully operative by December 2021. As a result, the estimated change in European exhibition company profits showed overwhelming losses and reductions in 2020. In fact, for many European countries, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was the most important issue facing the European exhibition industry as of June 2021, with the United Kingdom and France the most concerned with the potential effects of the health crisis.

Digitalization of the meetings industry in Europe

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to quickly adopt digital solutions as in-person gatherings and distant travel were severely restricted in 2020. During that year, 30 percent of association meetings in Europe were held virtually ‒ the second-highest amount for all regions worldwide. However, in 2021, most European businesses did not plan to have fully virtual events. A majority of fairs projected in Europe in 2021, 56 percent, were planned to be held in-person, while 29 percent were organized as hybrid events and 15 percent were intended to be fully virtual fairs. While meetings might not be fully virtual in the near future, many exhibition companies recently adopted new digital processes due to the limitations experienced during the health crisis. The most common digital implementation among European exhibition companies in 2021 was adding digital services and products around existing exhibitions, such as apps or digital advertising.


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