Exhibition activity in the UK contributes an annual £9.3bn to the economy and directly employs almost 56,000 people according to the industry's first economic impact study.
Initial findings from the draft report, conducted by consultant KPMG on behalf of the Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO) and the Association of Event Venues (AEV) were revealed by AEO director general Trevor Foley on the second day of its conference last month.
Foley told more than 350 delegates at the ICC Birmingham on 8 September that, according to the KPMG study, the UK exhibition industry is either directly or indirectly responsible for more than 136,600 jobs.
Quoting from the report, he said that more than 1,800 exhibitions take place in the UK each year - at least twice the number previously claimed to take place by rival trade body, the Exhibition Venues Association (EVA) according to its annual Facts.
The EVA Facts has long been the only source of information about the size of the exhibition market and Volume 17, published earlier this year stated that in 2004 there were 918 exhibitions reported from 41 UK venues offering more than 2,000sqm of exhibition space.
"At last we will have a more accurate account of the size of the industry and once the full report has been finalised, the AEO will plan a promotional campaign to highlight the importance of exhibitions and their impact," said Foley.
KPMG has further discovered that UK shows attract more than 17m visitors annually and around 270,000 exhibiting companies. More than 7% of the visitors to UK shows are from abroad.
Other headline figures show that exhibitions result in £19m being spent annually on hotel rooms, £258m spent on mainland travel, £403m spent on food and drink and £179m spent on entertainment.
"These figures will finally give us the right ammunition to go to government and promote our industry properly," Foley concluded.
The KPMG study was commissioned more than 18 months ago and has been paid for from AEO budget reserves.