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Economic uncertainty is curtailing exhibitions industry travel

The cost of doing business now and several years into the future likely will continue taking a bite out of tradeshow attendance, new studies suggest.

Whether looking only a year or so ahead or a decade down the road, recent economic turmoil and future economic uncertainty have taken and will continue to exact a toll on the exhibitions industry, particularly when a great deal of travel is involved.

“We know we are in an age of economic uncertainty,” said Rohit Talwar, CEO, Fast Future Research. “That puts pressure on the industry. We don’t know what the financial future will be.”

Rohit’s comments were made while presenting results of the “Power of 10” study commissioned by the IMEX Group during the recent IMEX America tradeshow held in Las Vegas Oct. 9-11. The global study queried 765 industry professionals from 68 nations and six continents and determined the majority of those polled, 71 percent, cited the recent global economic recession is having the greatest impact on the meetings and exhibitions industry.

Rising fuel and energy costs likely will curtail participation in events requiring a great deal of travel for the next decade, but technological advancements and co-location of events could increase participation while decreasing event costs as well as the cost for attendees to participate. The study suggests events that do not profit will be closed while others will be shortened and many will be combined and co-located with other exhibitions to share the risks and rewards of putting on an event.

“We will see sanity over vanity,” said Rohit, adding that co-locating events “cut administration costs and cut event costs.”

But, in the very near future, a likely decrease in event participation is expected for 2013, a report by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) predicts. Economic turmoil in Europe, slow growth in China and continued high unemployment in the U.S. should lead to a decrease in the volume of business travel.

“Corporations are in a wait-and-see mode and holding back on investment decisions that would help boost the economy,” said Michael McCormick, executive director and COO, GBTA. “While companies aren’t cutting their business travel spend and we’re still seeing very modest growth, we are cautious about the outlook for the next several quarters.

Total U.S. business-travel volume is expected to top 438 million trips this year, which is down about 1.6 percent from 445 million in 2011, and likely will decline by another 1.1 percent in 2013, the study indicates.

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