UFI Kicks Off First Global Congress in U.S. With the Launch of North America Chapter

November 1, 2023

UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, kicked off its 90th UFI Global Congress today in Las Vegas — the first time for the global gathering to meet in the U.S. — with a member vote during its annual General Assembly to approve the launch of a North America chapter. 

Exhibition Place Toronto General Manager Laura Purdy will chair the new chapter together with vice chairs Kim Carcone, executive vice president, global market events for the Toy Association, and Pepe Navarro, director general for Tarsus/Informa. UFI will work with MAD Event Management, a trade show management company led by President Martha Donato and CEO Marty Glynn, to manage the activities for the new North America chapter. 

In an exclusive interview, we had the opportunity to talk with UFI President Michael Duck, who serves as executive vice president, commercial development of Informa Markets, and UFI CEO Kai Hattendorf, to get the inside scoop on the breaking news. Listen to our podcast with Duck and Hattendorf here.

Back story

As an integrated part of the industry association ecosystem, UFI has long been active across North America. More than 65 national and international exhibition end events industry associations — including the Society of Independent Show Organizers and the Exhibition Services and Contractors Association in the U.S., AMPROFEC and AMEREF in Mexico and Canadian Association of Exposition Management in Canada — are UFI members. 

UFI kicked off its 90th UFI Global Congress on Nov. 1 in Las Vegas with a vote to approve the launch of a North America chapter. 

“UFI is a trailblazer for collaboration among industry associations – and has been for more than 20 years, with great success around the world,” Hattendorf said. 

“Having seen multi-year stable growth in membership from across North America, UFI opens a North America chapter to ensure these members are well represented in the organization,” said Duck, who helped UFI open its first regional chapter more than 20 years ago. At the time, that regional chapter covered Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa. 

As of today, UFI will have five regional chapters, including North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Latin America. At least 5% of its global membership is based in each of these regions, Hattendorf said.

“We have seen our membership numbers rise constantly across North America,” Duck said. “North America represents a vital and growing share of UFI membership, with 7% of UFI’s 830 member companies based in the region and more than 25% of UFI members with active business in the region.”

In an exclusive interview, TSNN's Danica Tormohlen (middle) had the opportunity to talk with UFI President Michael Duck (right), who serves as executive vice president, commercial development of Informa Markets, and UFI CEO Kai Hattendorf (left), to get the inside scoop on the breaking news.

Major trade show companies, like Informa, RX and Clarion, are part of the European chapter, as their headquarters are located in Europe.

“Through the chapter, we make sure that the voices and needs of UFI members from Canada, U.S. and Mexico are well represented in UFI’s governing bodies, including the Executive Committee and the Board, as well as through the Chapter leadership,” Duck said.

Hattendorf added, “We can also serve our members and the industry in the region better through the chapter structure and its corresponding regional office.”

First time in U.S. 

Held at ARIA Resort & Casino, the UFI Global Congress is expected to bring together close to 500 exhibition leaders from around the world, including more than 100 from the U.S., said Hattendorf during a press conference on Oct. 31. 

Related: UFI Sets the Stage for Its First-Ever U.S. Global Congress in Las Vegas

From left to right: LVCVA's Steve Hill, MGM Resorts's Stephanie Glanzer, UFI's Michael Duck and UFI's Kai Hattendorf at a press conference on Oct. 31.

“It’s really an honor for us to be the first host of this Congress in the United States,” said Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “UFI is where this city’s biggest customers gather to take this industry forward.”

UFI Global Congress is organized each year in a different location and rotates regions around the world. The event has been held in North America once before, in Toronto in 1972.

“Now is the time, and Vegas is the place for 2023,” said Hattendorf. “With the interest the industry is taking in the U.S. market post-pandemic, there’re more international organizers looking to bring business to North America and likewise, there are more U.S. players looking for international connectivity.”

Speaking about selecting Las Vegas for this event, Duck pointed out, “It’s important for our industry not to be seen as boring. We are exciting!” 

And Las Vegas certainly fits the bill. The new Sphere is changing the game on events.The F1 race is roaring into the city in less than a month. The desert city now offers 15 million square feet of exhibit space, compared to 11 million square feet pre-pandemic, and the number of visitors coming to the city because of trade shows and meetings is projected to reach the pre-pandemic 6.6. million this year. 

Hattendorf also gave a nod to Las Vegas for spearheading the return of trade shows post-pandemic and the resurgence of the sector. 

The association selected the theme “Go Beyond” for this year’s Congress to explore the ways the industry is reinventing itself, with the digitization of events, real-time data, AI, workforce and sustainability among the key challenges. Lots of exciting offerings are on tap. 

“We believe one of the biggest roles for us in the events industry is to bring people together and connect people across borders, cultures and identities,” said Hattendorf. “When people know each other, they get along, and that’s the easiest way to drive progress for society in so many ways.”

Anna Huddleston contributed to this story.



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