NEC Birmingham celebrates growth and resilience of the exhibitions industry

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Credit: Leo Johnson photography

The UK’s exhibition industry continues to showcase resilience, creativity, and growth – according to the latest research conducted with the NEC Birmingham and other UK venues.

Released by The Events Industry Alliance (EIA), the collective associations of AEO, AEV and ESSA, the report assesses the size and scale index (SASIE) of the UK’s Exhibitions industry.

The 2023 SASIE research confirms that the industry is on a promising post-Brexit, post-pandemic path to growth and recovery. In 2023, there were an estimated 6.92m visits to exhibitions at the UK’s main exhibition venues.

The report found the four primary venues, NEC Birmingham, ExCeL, Olympia, and SEC, hosted approximately two-fifths (38%) of all exhibitions held in 2023. They hosted a higher proportion of trade exhibitions, 49% of the entire portfolio.

Primary venues also hosted larger exhibitions overall, with the highest proportion of ‘large’ and ‘very large’ exhibitor numbers. Exhibitions with 151 to 300+ exhibiting companies marked 42% of the total exhibitions hosted.

On average, an exhibition occupied a venue for 4.7 days. For primary venues including the UK’s largest exhibition venue, the NEC, occupation was much longer, at an average of 5.3 days.

Ian Taylor, Managing Director for Exhibitions at the NEC Group said: “It’s hugely promising that the UK’s exhibition industry continues to showcase growth and resilience. The trade generated from the thousands of exhibitions that take place every year across the UK proves that that our industry is a successful, key driver of economic activity. 

“A vital industry to UK PLC, it’s encouraging to see the demand for face-to-face exhibitions in both the trade and consumer markets grow year on year.”

The scale of the exhibition sector continues to grow, evidenced by:

  • A significant increase in total number of exhibiting companies per event – up 16% for all events.
  • The size of the exhibitions themselves – 51% held at primary venues were 8,000m2 or more in size.
  • The largest average number of visitors at exhibitions in primary venues, accounting for 66% of total visitor numbers.

In the consumer exhibition market, both visitor numbers and exhibition sizes demonstrated significant growth vs 2022. Consumer exhibitions maintained a strong market share at 40%, compared to 42% for trade events and 18% for conferences.

The Security Event is the largest security event in Europe and has taken place at the NEC for four editions, soon to be five later this month. In its tenure, the show has more than doubled in size, with this year’s offering playing host to more than one thousand exhibitors (co-located with The Fire Safety Event, The Health & Safety Event, National Cyber Security Show and The Workplace Event) across forty-five thousand square feet of event space. In 2023, The Safety & Security Series saw increases in 43% in exhibitor footprint and 34% increase in visitors compared to 2022.

Crufts has taken place at the NEC since 1991 and attracts thousands of dogs with their owners and handlers to showcase their dogs’ skills and abilities to adoring crowds. In 2023, Crufts welcomed 155,000 attendees (not including the dogs), a 17.7% increase from the 2022 outing.

From an exhibition perspective, Crufts has demonstrated excellent growth in 2023. Exhibitors coming to Crufts has continued to increase over time, up 8.8.% vs 2022.

Continued recovery in the exhibitions sector is the key theme of this year’s report, with average and total numbers of exhibitors, visitors and size up vs 2022. At the NEC, 27 new exhibitions were brought to the venue in 2023.

Rachel Parker, director, AEV and EIA said: “The UK exhibitions industry will continue to play a crucial role in driving international trade and prosperity for business event destinations across the UK while, at the same time, supporting the government’s growth agenda.”

Adam Parry
Author: Adam Parry

Adam is the co-founder and editor of www.eventindustrynews.com Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.

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