Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2023

Trade Shows Are Bouncing Back

U.S. B2B expos are once again on the rise — and the recovery is just starting to gain steam. According to the new Q1 report from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), the industry showed significant improvement in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the previous eight quarters. Cancellation rates have dived from 98% in Q1 2020, to 91.3% in Q1 last year, to just 9.2% in Q1 2022, CEIR found.

With 90.1% of the shows originally scheduled to be held in Q1 2022 going on as scheduled, just 1.6% of were postponed, while 8.3% were cancelled. Half of event organizers that cancelled their Q1 events replaced their in-person shows with digital events, down from the 78.5% who did so in Q4 last year.

“Despite Omicron at the outset of 2022, our industry pressed on; many have held their events and have done so successfully and safely,” said CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP-F, CAE, CEM.

Despite the improvements in both the rate of completed events and the drop in cancellations, the industry still has a way to go. The CEIR Total Index, which measures overall exhibition performance, still shows the industry down 37.9% from 2019 levels. But that’s still a big jump up from the previous year, which showed a decline from 2019 levels of 94% in Q1 2021, 75.6% in Q2 2021, 50.6% in Q3 2021, and 45.3% in Q4 last year.

But the road to recovery continues to be uneven, albeit generally heading toward a return to pre-pandemic levels. For those who held their events as scheduled, more than 15% report that they surpassed their pre-pandemic metrics. While the steepness of the declines is beginning to level a bit, real revenues are still down 34%, attendees have declined by almost 33%, and exhibitors are down 30% as compared to Q1 2019. Net square feet showed the smallest amount of shrinkage in Q1 2022 compared to Q1 2019 at 29%.

“While it will take time to get back to 2019 performance levels, we are on our way. With vaccine mandates and safety measures implemented at large gatherings, and with a majority of the population vaccinated, the recovery of B2B exhibitions should continue in 2022, unless a new variant causes a severe fifth wave of COVID-19 infections,” Breden said.

“B2B exhibitions offer opportunities for buyers to find alternative reasonable-price supplies under the current elevated inflation environment and persistence of global supply chain challenges,” said CEIR Economist Dr. Allen Shaw, Chief Economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates, Inc. “The B2B exhibition cancellation rate should decline further and the performance of completed events will continue to improve.”

CEIR has released the 2022 CEIR Index Report, which analyzes the 2021 exhibition industry performance and provides an economic and exhibition industry outlook for the next three years. It is available for purchase, both in its entirety and as individual sector reports. The results also will be discussed in more detail at the CEIR Predict Conference, to be held Sept. 15-16, 2022, at the MGM National Harbor.

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