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CEIR Exhibition Industry Index Q1 2011 Q3 2020 Jan2021Third-quarter data reveals that 2020 continued to be a terrible year for the B2B exhibition industry. This is per findings from the Center of Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), which shows that their Total Index saw a decline of 98.1% over the same quarter in 2019.

This decline in the CEIR Total Index — a measurement 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 — is only slightly less than the full and abrupt 100% year-over-year (y-o-y) decline experienced in Q2 2020.

CEIR explains that although the economy rebounded in Q3, limits on group sizes remained in place because of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, resulting in only about 3% of events taking place during the quarter. Most of these were small, regional events. Indeed, the top two cited reasons given by B2B exhibition organizers for canceling or postponing events during the quarter were the lack of corporate travel policies and the strict rules imposed by states and municipalities.

Per the data, exhibition metrics suffered declines in Q3 across the board. Excluding cancelled events, the quarter saw the Total Index drop 36.1% y-o-y. At -57.6%, attendees had the steepest decline, followed by exhibitors (-29.2%) and net square feet (26.3%). Real revenues saw a relatively smaller y-o-y decline for the quarter, dropping 24.6%.

Looking ahead, although immediate recovery of the industry appears unlikely, CEIR is optimistic that with a push from economic growth and with the majority of the population vaccinated, B2B exhibitions will experience recovery in 2022.

Until that time, it is likely that B2B businesses will continue to hold virtual events — an option that an increasing number of B2Bs used as a result of the pandemic and that is expected to remain, at least in some form, even after the pandemic is over.

About the Data: The CEIR Total Index is a measure of exhibition industry performance that takes into account the net square feet of exhibit space sold, professional attendance, number of exhibiting companies, and total event gross revenue.

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