During the first quarter of 2020 and in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, some three-quarters (72.6%) of events originally scheduled for late March were cancelled. New data from the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) illustrates just how significant the impact of the pandemic has been on the exhibition industry.
The cancellation of the majority of large gatherings in Q1 2020 brought the CEIR Total Index — a measure of exhibition industry performance which takes into account net square feet of exhibit space sold, professional attendance, number of exhibiting companies and total event gross revenue— down by a record 15.1% year-over-year (y-o-y). For comparison’s sake, since 2011 the Total Index has not declined by more than 0.5%. Q1’s slide comes after a 2% y-o-y increase in the Total Index the previous quarter.
Notably, during the 2008/2009 financial crisis when GDP was lower than at any time since, the Total Index declined by a more modest 12.5%. The exhibition industry is not alone in facing a worse impact from coronavirus than the financial crisis, with the majority of sell-side and buy-side advertisers expecting substantially more negative impact from the current crisis.
As such, all CEIR metrics saw a significant decline in Q1. Exhibitors were hit hardest with a drop of 16.3%, followed by attendees (15.2%) and net square feet (14.9%). Real revenues (nominal revenues adjusted for inflation) declined the least, but still significantly, with a drop of 14.2%. Once again, these are record declines even when taking data from 2008 and 2009 into account.
Unlike the more widespread negative impact of the financial crisis over a decade ago, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit some industries harder than others, in some cases spurring growth. Alongside exhibitions, those in industries such as ad selling and events are experiencing negative fallout, while e-commerce and online groceries are finding increased sales.
Read the report in detail here.
About the Data: The CEIR Total Index is a measure of exhibition industry performance that takes into account net square feet of exhibit space sold, professional attendance, number of exhibiting companies and total even gross revenue.