UBM Asia Ltd expects the exhibition market in Asean to grow by an average of 10 percent per annum in the next five years following the roll out of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) by year-end, said its president and CEO Jime Essink.

He said the growth was very much related to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

"As the average growth of Asean countries was about five percent, we forecast the business growth to double but it may differ according to industries," said Essink.

The global exhibition business was valued at US$23 billion in 2014 with Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam accounting for US$600 million, he said.

Essink added that the company would now position all its trade events as regional events to leverage on AEC as a bigger and more attractive market by intensifying promotion to attract more visitors and buyers to Asean.

"The AEC is a large market comprising 600 million people as such it would be an advantage for companies to participate in regional events.

"They will be willing to invest to reach out to the market, Essink told Bernama.

He said Kuala Lumpur was made the regional office considering UMB Malaysia's role in organising Asean events.

UBM Asia organised an average of 230 events per year in Asia with 60 events held in Asean out of which UBM Malaysia organised 30 events.

"Half of those events is held in Malaysia," he said.

However, Essink said as the trade show business grew in Malaysia, it was now faced with venue limitations as trade exhibitions required large space and venues in Malaysia were limited in terms of space capacity and tight bookings.

UBM Malaysia (Asean Business) managing director M. Ghandi said currently Malaysian venues had a combined gross maximum space capacity of about 47,000 sq metres and this was expected to increase to 90,000 sq metres in 2017 when the Matrade Exhibition centre is completed.

He said, compared with neighbouring countries like Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia which had bigger space capacity of up to 150,000 sq metres, Malaysia might not be an attractive venue for large trade events in future.

He added that the government, trade organisations and businesses should understand the value of trade events.

"It is not just about tourism where hotels are fully booked. Stakeholders should participate in a more meaningful way and view trade events as a mode to promote trade and investments for the country," he said.

UBM Asia is Asia's leading exhibition organiser and the biggest commercial organiser in mainland China, India and Malaysia.

The Malaysian International Furniture Fair, for example, is the largest trade show organised by UBM in Asean and Malaysia and, attracts about 6,200 visitors from 150 countries.