The US B2B exhibition industry continues to recover, although it hasn’t yet rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest data from the Center of Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR).
The figures show sustained improvement over several quarters in terms of exhibitions going forward as planned. In fact, just 2% of events were canceled in Q2 (excluding those postponed), down from close to 1 in 10 (9.2%) in Q1, 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%).
Indeed, it’s quite the turnaround given that almost all events (98%) were cancelled in the second half of 2020.
Among all events originally scheduled for the first quarter of this year, 97.5% were completed as scheduled, while 1.9% were cancelled and 0.6% were postponed. Excluding those postponed events, the cancellation rate was 2.0%.
Total Exhibition Industry Inching Closer to Pre-Pandemic Levels
The CEIR Total Index continues to trail pre-pandemic levels by a significant margin, but it is getting nearer to those baselines: in Q1 2022, the CEIR Total Index was 25.5% lower than the comparable period in 2019. That’s an improvement from a 37.9% gap in Q1 2022, 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 about two-thirds (66%) of trade shows scheduled to be held in the second quarter of 2021 were canceled, comparison of Q2 2022 performance results to Q2 2021 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. As such, completed events in the second quarter of 2022 are compared with those in the second quarter of 2019.
When excluding canceled events, the Total Index for completed events in Q2 was down by 24.0% compared to Q2 2019, with this an improvement from a 31.5% drop in Q1 2022, a 40.5% drop in Q4 2021 and a 45.8% fall in Q3 2021.
The index figure for Q2 was affected by a 22.4% drop in Attendees, although this was the metric that actually fared the best. The Exhibitor metric (number of exhibitors) fared slightly worse, with a 23.5% drop. The Real Revenues metric suffered the most, down by 26.3%.
Nevertheless, that Real Revenues metric was an improvement from Q1, as the industry continues to recover. A recent PwC forecast indicates that it might be another 5 years at least before the B2B trade show industry reaches pre-pandemic levels, but these figures from the CEIR suggest that full recovery may indeed come sooner.
For more, check out CEIR’s report here.