The B2B exhibition industry continues to rebound and looks set to accelerate even more, according to the latest data from the Center of Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR).
The figures show continued improvement over the past few quarters in terms of exhibitions going forward as planned. In fact, just 9.2% of events – fewer than 1 in 10 – were canceled in Q1, down from 1 in 8 (12.5%) in Q4 2021, 1 in 5 in Q3 (20.6%), 2 in 3 in Q2 (66.2%), and 9 in 10 in Q1 (91.3%).
The report notes that virtually all events (98%) were cancelled in the second half of 2020, so things have certainly flipped since then.
Among all events originally scheduled for the first quarter of this year, 90.1% were completed as scheduled, while 8.3% were cancelled and 1.6% were postponed. Excluding those postponed events, the cancellation rate was 9.2%.
Interestingly, among the cancelled events in Q1, only half offered a virtual event, which is down from two-thirds or more in each of the previous 4 quarters, including 78.5% in Q4 2021. This could be a function of perceptions of online event fatigue or a lack of confidence in virtual event execution. Nonetheless, survey results suggest that B2B marketers will be planning hybrid events in the future.
Total Exhibition Industry Index Narrowing Gap with Pre-Pandemic Levels
The CEIR Total Index continues to trail pre-pandemic levels by a considerable margin, but it is closing the gap: in Q1 2022, the CEIR Total Index was 37.9% lower than the comparable period in 2019. However, that’s an improvement from a 45.3% gap in Q4 2021, a 50.6% gap in Q3 2021, and a 75.6% gap in Q2 2021.
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. Per the report, given that almost 98% of trade shows scheduled to be held in the fourth quarter of 2020 were canceled, comparison of Q4 2021 performance results to Q4 2020 results are not useful, as any positive change would be very large and misleading. The more useful comparison is to 2019, the industry benchmarks before COVID-19 caused the industry’s shutdown. Thus, completed events in the first quarter of 2022 are compared with those in the first quarter of 2019.
When excluding canceled events, the Total Index for completed events in Q1 was down by 31.5% compared to Q1 2019, with this an improvement from a 40.5% drop in Q4 2021 and a 45.8% in Q3 2021.
The index figure for Q1 was affected by a 32.9% drop in Attendees, while the Exhibitor metric (number of exhibitors) fared slightly better, with a 30.1% drop. The Real Revenues metric suffered the most, down by 34.2%.
The report also notes results from the CEIR Omnichannel Study, which found a “strong intent to return in 2022” on the exhibitor side and slightly more modest intent on the attendee side. Moreover, CEIR’s January 2022 COVID-19 Impact and Recovery survey – fielded during the Omicron wave – also found that a strong majority of organizers maintained their plans to run their 2022 events.