Meeting Mentor Magazine

July 2024

B2B Exhibitions Continue to Rebound

The U.S. business-to-business exhibition industry increased 15% year over year in Q4 of 2023 on all major exhibition metrics, according to a new CEIR report.

B2B exhibitions are closing in on pre-pandemic levels on all major metrics, from exhibitors and net square footage to attendees and real revenues, according to the latest CEIR Total Index from the  Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR). The report, which cites recovery levels as of Q4 2023, found that just 8% of trade shows were reporting they had yet to reach their pre-pandemic numbers. This is a marked improvement from Q4 numbers reported in 2022, when 20% were still lagging behind their 2019 results — 40% who said the same in Q4 2021.

Almost a third had surpassed their 2019 levels in Q4 2023, according to the report, an improvement from less than a quarter who said the same in Q4 2022. One number that has decreased, but in the best possible way, is the number of cancellations, with a Q4 2023 cancellation rate of just 1.4%, down from almost 15% in Q4 2021.

“The latest CEIR Index readings confirm the resilience of exhibitions,” said Adam Sacks, president of leading independent global advisory firm Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics Company. “The industry has full recovery in view with the Index just 8% below pre-pandemic levels, showing the enduring importance of exhibitions to company performance.”

However, we’re still not all the way back just yet. The number of exhibitors, while improved, is still down 3.7% from pre-pandemic totals, while net square feet is still down 5%. Attendees and real revenues are a bit slower to recover, still down 10% and 13%, respectively, from Q4 2019. While revenues are up by 3.7% over 2019, when you factor in inflation and eroded exhibition income value, the real revenues are more in the range of 13% lower than they were in 2019.

But this may be changing in 2024. According to Oxford Economics’ business cycle indicator (BCI), the economy overall is coming back, thanks to gains in personal income, consumption levels, and industrial production, reaching BCI’s highest level in two years at the end of 2023. The continuing strength of the labor market, combined with loosening financial conditions and other factors, are keeping the risk of recession lower than anticipated.

Moving forward, CEIR will partner with Tourism Economics to produce the CEIR Index. This move was preceded by the retirement of the organization’s long-time resident economist Dr. Allen Shaw, founder, president and chief economist of  Global Economic Consulting Associates. The next CEIR Index Report, which will include a forecast through 2026, is due for publication later this month.

To learn more about the CEIR Index and to purchase the 2023 report, visit the CEIR website.





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