UK exhibitions industry showing ‘significant recovery’ post-Covid, according to new research

The exhibitions industry has shown significant recovery since the pandemic, the latest industry-wide research has shown.

The Events Industry Alliance (EIA) – the collective associations of AEO, AEV and ESSA,  has published its seventh Size and Scale Index for Exhibitions (SASiE) report – the first edition since 2019.

Shaun Hinds, CEO Manchester Central and current EIA chair, said: “The report identifies and confirms important trends in UK exhibitions as well as describing the key dimensions and characteristics of the sector.

“It shows that the number of major exhibitions held in the UK’s main exhibition venues in 2022 was almost back to pre-Covid levels, showing significant recovery with some indicators on a par or up on 2019 and highlighting the resilience of our industry."


Key findings
  • While overall numbers of exhibitions were down, the number of trade exhibitions was up on 2019.
  • Overall, gross exhibition size in 2022 was also down on pre-Covid levels but consumer exhibitions had largely recovered (with a slight increase in size).
  • Both venue hire days and exhibition open days were broadly on a par with pre-Covid levels – they were very slightly up for consumer exhibitions.

The study showed that in 2022 there were an estimated 969 exhibitions at the UK’s main exhibition venues. More than a third were held at the UK’s four primary venues ExCeL London, Olympia London, the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and Scottish Event Campus (SEC).

There were an estimated 6.11m visits to exhibitions at the UK’s main exhibition venues over the year with median event attendance 2,800. On average there were 126 exhibitors per event.

Types expo


There was a slow start to 2022 with a lower number of exhibitions in January and February  – the continuing impact of Omicron but a robust recovery from March.

Despite the slow start to the year, average visitor numbers in 2022 had nearly bounced back to pre-Covid levels (only 13% down on the year).

The average number of exhibiting companies did not show the same recovery as other indicators and was significantly below pre-Covid level.

Industry sectors

The table summarises the industry sector by exhibition type.  The circled values indicate the most common sectors.

Consumer exhibitions were strongly orientated to the leisure sector (approximately 43% of consumer exhibitions), and the lifestyle / wedding / homeware sector (16%) and the education / careers / training sector (9%).

Trade exhibitions were more diverse in their industry sector – popular ones were medicine, healthcare and pharmaceuticals (14%), industry & processing, manufacturing, engineering and science (10%) and other service industries (10%).


RJS Associates and Tony Rogers Conference & Event Services compile the SASiE report every year by taking the data submissions from participating industry associations AEV and AEO members, weighting and analysing the resulting data to produce the report.

Rachel Parker, AEV director, said: “The report provides vitally important market intelligence for the industry and helps demonstrate the value of our sector in our discussions with Government. We are always grateful to all AEV and AEO members who contribute the time and resource collating data for the report.”

AEV, AEO and ESSA members can access the newly published 2022 SASiE report free of charge via their member zones. The report is also available to non-members from the AEV for £495 + VAT.