Data from Q4 2020 shows that the B2B exhibition industry did not see any relief from months of in-person event cancellations brought on by the continuation of the pandemic. This is per fourth quarter findings from the Center of Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), which shows that their Total Index saw a decline of 98.3% 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 — caps off a year that saw a 100% year-over-year (y-o-y) decline in Q2 and a 98.4% y-o-y decline in Q3.
Although the economy appeared to be recovering gradually in Q4, a third wave of COVID-19 infection led many states to limit group sizes. This resulted in only about 3% of events taking place during the quarter, most of which were small, regional events. In fact, the continuation of strict rules imposed by states and municipalities as well as no-travel corporate policies were the top two cited reasons given by B2B exhibition organizers for cancelling or postponing events during Q4.
Per the data, exhibition metrics suffered declines in Q4 across the board. Excluding cancelled events, the quarter saw the Total Index drop 34.4% y-o-y. At -37%, exhibitors had the steepest decline, followed by attendees (-36.5%) and net square feet (-33.1%). Real revenues saw a relatively smaller y-o-y decline for the quarter, dropping 30.7%.
Despite a dismal 2020, CEIR continues to show optimism that better times are ahead. As the population becomes vaccinated, leading to the economy opening up, CEIR expects to see recovery of B2B exhibitions to start by the end of the year and continue into 2022.
In the meantime, a separate report from CEIR found that 2 in 5 B2B event organizations plan to hold a virtual event this year, and, even after normality resumes more than two-thirds believe that virtual will play a larger role in physical events.
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.