LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Last week, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) released the 2022 CEIR Q3 report during Expo! Expo!, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events’ (IAEE) Annual Meeting and Exhibition. The report suggests that the trade show industry is starting to rebound from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and is slowly recovering and adapting to current conditions in order to survive.
While the industry is still in a state of flux, the report shows that attendance, exhibitor numbers, and spending have all been increasing steadily in 2022 when compared with 2019 when the pandemic began. This indicates that the trade show industry is beginning to recover, and that events are becoming more popular as people begin to feel comfortable attending them again.
Over 20% of trade shows scheduled to be held in the third quarter of 2021 were cancelled, limiting the usefulness of comparisons of Q3 2021 and Q3 2022 results, as any positive change would be very large and misleading. A more useful comparison is to the 2019 performance results, measured as the industry benchmark before COVID forced shutdowns. The CEIR Total Index – a measure of overall exhibition performance that focuses on the metrics of exhibitors, attendees, real revenue, and net square feet – continues to recover, with an overall result 22.3% lower than 2019. But this is a vast improvement compared to 2020 and 2021. There was a decline of 98.3% from 2019 in Q3 2020 and 50.0% from 2019 in Q3 2021.
While still down from 2019 the direction is positive, with the overall Index and specific metrics improving for the past six quarters. Among completed events, 14% have surpassed their pre-pandemic levels of the CEIR Total Index. “Despite Omicron at the outset of 2022, CEIR research has documented an intent to return to face-to-face engagement at B2B exhibitions, and CEIR Index quarterly results show recovery is happening,” said CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP-F, CAE, CEM. “Each quarter, the Index is showing that more business professionals and exhibitors are coming back to the B2B exhibitions channel to meet their marketing, sales and business information needs.”
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One of the key statistics from the 2022 CEIR Q3 reveals that the cancellation rate for physical in-person events remains low, although it increased slightly from 2.0% in Q2 to 3.1% in Q3. These rates are a substantial improvement from 97.8% in Q3 2020 and 20.6% in Q3 2021.
Among four metrics, Exhibitors suffered the largest fall of 23.6%, followed by Attendees with a decline of 23.2%. Real Revenues tumbled 18.0%. Net Square Feet (NSF) in Q3 was the metric that contracted the least at 14.4% from Q3 2019.
Additionally, the report also suggests that the industry is becoming more resilient, with technology playing an increasingly important role in the way events are delivered. The industry has embraced emerging technologies and new strategies that can help it adapt to the changing landscape.
Of all shows originally scheduled to be held in Q3 2022, 0.38% were postponed, 3.04% were cancelled and 96.58% were completed as scheduled. Among cancelled in-person events in Q3, about 38% pivoted to produce digital events. Excluding postponed events, the cancellation rate reached 3.1%, as indicated previously.
But the prognosis for 2023 does present cause for concern. There are widespread views on whether the economy is in a recession or heading into one. The outlook has implications for the exhibition industry.
As a result, 2023 will be challenging for the exhibition industry, as the economy slows down further and businesses are more cautious. “The B2B exhibition cancellation rate should remain extremely low, and the performance of completed events will continue to improve,” said CEIR Economist Dr. Allen Shaw, Chief Economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates, Inc. “A full recovery for the industry is expected in 2024.”
Among 14 industry sectors that CEIR monitors, Government and Discretionary Consumer Goods and Services sectors are expected to perform better, whereas IT and Building and Construction sectors will lag behind the overall exhibition industry.
Reach Cathy Breden at email@example.com; Dr. Allen W. Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org