This Just In

Industry to Fully Rebound by 2023, Says CEIR 2021 Index Report

Sue Pelletier, Senior Editor

CEIR IndexDALLAS — As an objective measure of the annual performance of the exhibition industry, the CEIR Index, produced annually by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), is a valuable tool trade show executives use to measure their metrics against industry baselines.

It also is “absolutely essential to the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance’s (ECA) advocacy work in Washington, D.C. and nationwide,” ECA Vice President of Government Affairs Tommy Goodwin said. “Each year, the Index has the up-to-date data that we need to demonstrate to federal policymakers that the business-to-business exhibitions industry is an economic engine that drives jobs and commerce from coast to coast.” CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM, added, “It is through data gathered for the Index that CEIR is able to generate economic impact figures related to the U.S. GDP. This economic impact of the exhibition industry is important for telling our story on the effect of shows to the U.S. economy.”

After taking 2020 off due to a dearth of trade shows and data from the pandemic shutdowns and postponing the release of the data from its usual April schedule, CEIR has released the 2021 CEIR Index Report, which analyzes the 2020 business-to-business (B2B) exhibition industry performance and provides an economic and exhibition industry forecast for the next three years.

Related. CEIR Adds Case Studies to Global Virtual Event Trends Series

CEIR provided a forecast update of the Index at the CEIR Predict Conference, held Sept. 13–14 at the MGM National Harbor. The Index measures year-over-year changes in four key metrics to determine overall performance: net square feet (NSF) of exhibit space sold; professional attendance; number of exhibiting companies; and gross revenue. It focuses on collecting data across 14 key industry sectors, from business services and consumer goods to education, food, government, building and construction, medical/health and transportation.

According to information released during the CEIR Predict session, while there historically has been a high correlation between B2B exhibition performance and gross domestic product, this was not the case during 2020 as the world locked down in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. While a few small shows were held in 2020 after COVID hit, overall, the Index showed a decline of 78.5% over 2019. (Click here to watch a video of key insights from that presentation.)

Related. Global Industry Performance Review 2021 Preview

The Index presents three scenarios, from worst to best to most likely.

Worst case scenario: The delta variant persists, or a new highly contagious variant emerges in 2022. In this case, the industry will not fully recover until 2024. The good news is that the probability of this happening is 30%.

Best case scenario: Vaccination rates continue to rise. If this happens, the industry will fully recover by mid-2022. However, the odds of this happening are only 10%.

Most likely scenario: Cancellation rates decline further in Q3 and Q4 as more shows come back online. There’s a 60% probability that the industry fully recovers by 2023.

“In the baseline scenario, the impact of COVID-19 diminishes, and the exhibition industry should see a dramatic rebound in 2022, exceeding 100% year-over-year increases in all 14 sectors, albeit from a low base in 2021,” CEIR Economist Dr. Allen Shaw, Chief Economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates, Inc., said. “By the end of 2023, the exhibition industry is expected to fully recover. Nonetheless, performance by sector will diverge depending on its secular (long-term) trends and underlying macroeconomic conditions.”

The sectors expected to lead the recovery are industrial machinery and finished products, food, and discretionary consumer goods and services. The sectors the Index predicts will lag in returning to pre-pandemic levels are raw materials and science, business services, consumer goods and retail trade, and education.

Visit the CEIR website for information on how to purchase the complete 2021 CEIR Index Report as well as individual sector reports.

Reach Tommy Goodwin at (703) 672-0780 or; Cathy Breden at (972) 687-9201 or; Allen Shaw at



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