On June 10, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research presented a webinar titled, “Outlook for the U.S. B2B Exhibition Industry—Are We Closer to the Light at the End of the Tunnel?” The presenters were Nancy Drapeau, VP of Research, CEIR, and Dr. Allen Shaw, president, Global Economic Consulting Associates; with Cathy Breden, EVP/COO IAEE, serving as the moderator. The webinar can be accessed at store.ceir.org.
Some of the salient points discussed were:
- “Popular (participant) Requirements Focus on Safety Protocols and Liability Protection, Not Testing nor Proof of Vaccination.” Approximately 83 percent of events through May imposed some type of safety requirement (for example, face masks, signed health risk waivers and/or physical distancing).
- “ (The) Primary Reasons for Canceling (events were) Linked to Government and Corporate Policies.” The uncertainly as to when state or local lockdown rules would allow conventions, as well as mandated corporate “no travel” policies, were the main factors in cancellations and/or postponements.
- “(The) Shift to Digital (is) Receding among Canceled In-person Events.” The popularity of the hybrid model has been receding among postponed events. (Full virtual tradeshows have decreased from 54 percent in January to 38 percent in the May survey; and the number of shows with “one or more virtual offerings” decreased from 88 percent to 75 percent).
- “(The) Average Daily Rate of New COVID-19 Cases in U.S. (has) Plummeted.” Lower rates increase confidence and should boost show attendance.
- “A Quick Economic Recovery Has Been Affirmed.” This has been a quick “V” shaped recovery from a national standpoint, although it is estimated that it will take three years for the industry to recover. While that may seem like a long time, it took almost ten years for the industry to recover fully after 2008.
- Job gains are smaller than expected for four reasons: those making $15 an hour or less can possibly make more money on unemployment; child care costs and availability is still an issue with schools not 100 percent open; some in the workforce have chosen early retirement; and some are still concerned about their health.
- Revenues retained by virtual events has been negligible and is not considered an option to replace in-person events.
- The outlook for live events is very promising for the second half of 2021.
- According to surveys, 78 percent of attendees, and 80 percent of exhibitors expect to be at shows in the third quarter. The numbers increase to 94 and 95 percent respectively, for the fourth quarter.
- Show cancellation rates are steadily decreasing. In Quarter 1, 77.6 percent of shows canceled, and another 14.2 percent postponed. The rate is decreasing in quarters two and three, and only 5 percent of shows in the fourth quarter have canceled.
- “Stay the Course!” for events planned for Q3 and Q4 is CEIR’s suggested business plan. This is a very fluid situation, but each and every event that occurs will build more confidence.
- “Higher Inflation is Likely to be Transitory” despite May’s dramatic increase, according to the Federal Reserve.
- Are we closer to the light at the end of the tunnel? The answer appears to be, yes.
- CEIR’s prediction: The “Most Likely Scenario” is that the “Worst is Behind Us” and that “By Q3 2021 Enough Americans Are Protected to Achieve Herd Immunity.”
- CEIR’s forecast for industry growth is shown in the chart to the right. It is showing total metrics in relation to 2019 numbers. While the forecasted numbers are negative in relation to 2019, it is important to realize that there is substantial growth year on year when compared with 2020.
My opinion is, there is a pent-up demand for the return of live face-to-face events and the fall will be extremely busy in terms of numbers of shows. What is your opinion?
Bob McGlincy is director, business management at Willwork Global Event Services. Willwork creates engaging, energized, and exceptional event experiences. He can be contacted at Bob.McGlincy@willwork.com