In 2022, professionals in the business tourism sector, gathered within the Copil congress and trade shows group1, collaborated to conduct a study on new expectations and behaviours of international customers at international trade shows, in response to the health crisis as well as the energy crisis and the resurgence of inflation. 

The results of this study, carried out among more than 600 exhibitors and visitors from 22 countries2, reveal that trade shows are more popular than ever among businesses and face little competition from digital offerings, which are perceived only as complementary. Environmental criteria, although important, still have limited influence on the decision to participate in an international trade show. The overall increase in travel costs and site accessibility are also concerns that industry operators must consider more than ever. 

Trade shows in physical presence is preferred and digital services will be as an additional  

  • After the crisis period that heavily impacted professional events in 2020 and 2021, 98% of foreign customers prefer trade shows in “physical presence.”
  • Digital or hybrid offerings are considered temporary or complementary tools to maintain connections with clients throughout the year. While most companies find them useful, only 2% perceive them as a substitute for physical trade shows.  
  • Les offres digitales ou hybrides sont considérées comme des outils temporaires ou complémentaires pour garder le lien toute l’année avec les clients. La majorité des entreprises les jugent utiles mais seuls 2 % les perçoivent comme un substitut au salon « physique ».    
  • Face-to-face interaction and networking are cited as the main benefits of physical trade shows for both exhibitors and visitors, followed by the ability to showcase, see, or touch products.  
  • 74% of surveyed exhibitor companies intend to participate in a trade show in France and/or in Paris region very soon, and 57% of visitors plan to attend a trade show in Paris in 2023. However, clients from far away countries (Asia and America) are more uncertain compared to Europeans. 
  • Participation budgets remain stable for a majority of foreign companies (53% of exhibitors and 57% of visitors), but businesses express concern about the overall cost increase, which may lead to reducing booth size or sending fewer staff members. 

Environmental footprint of trade shows, a criterion still little considered   

  • Today, the offerings of trade shows (products, innovations, content), quality even before the number of visitors, as well as budget considerations (ROI, booth and travel costs) are the decisive criteria that motivate foreign companies to attend international trade shows in France. 
  • The environmental footprint of the trade show is currently a non-determining factor, as only 5% of the foreign customers consider it a decisive criterion for participation. The fact that the companies attending trade shows are mostly SMEs/SEMs could explain why the need to do business takes precedence over environmental concerns today.    
  • Among the environmental aspects, access to the venue via public transportation is considered the most important factor (by 55% of companies), surpassing the CSR policies of the exhibition center and the trade show.
  • While more than a third of exhibitors and visitors state their preference for local trade shows (in the same country) in the coming years, it is mainly driven by time-saving and economic factors rather than environmental considerations.    

Significant economic impact on the Paris region destination     

  • Among the activities surrounding trade shows, visitors primarily engage in professional meetings, but 37% of them extend their stay for leisure purposes, 29% extend their business trips to neighboring countries, and 27% take advantage of the opportunity to work remotely .
  • In this regard, factors such as the cost-effectiveness of the destination, the quality of nearby hotel accommodations, and the safety and well-being conditions are taken into consideration when making the decision to attend a trade show in France.  

As a reminder, business tourism has a particularly significant impact in the Paris region. In 2019, professional customer stays accounted for half of all hotel nights, and business travelers’ expenses were twice that of leisure travelers. However, the number of foreign visitors and exhibitors has not yet returned to pre-crisis levels. According to the latest CCIR barometer, trade shows in the Île-de-France region in the first quarter of 2023 have regained approximately 85% of the activity seen in the first quarter of 2019. Nevertheless, the slow return of foreign customers, especially those from distant countries, continues to pose challenges for French trade shows in an increasingly competitive environment.  

For a summary of the study’s results, please refer to the attached document. Detailed results are available upon request from Promosalons. 

1) CCI Paris Île-de-France, Viparis, Unimev, Promosalons, Atout France, Aéroport de Paris, CEP, CRT Ile-de-France, OTCP, DGE-Ministère de l’Economie et des Finances.

(2) The study was carried out by the Promosalons network, with 607 professionals from 22 countries (387 visitors including 102 top buyers and 220 exhibitors), interviewed by telephone between November and December 2022.