Exhibitions-industry forecasts a loss of $14-22 billion

Secaucus – The growing number of trade shows that have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis will result in a loss to the economy of $14 billion to $22 billion, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. The preliminary projection, based on cancellations reported to the organization by exhibition and event organizers, is but a subset of the overall losses expected by the travel and meetings industry.

CEIR estimates that between 50 and 80 percent of the 2,500 business-to-business events originally scheduled for the March 1 – May 15 time frame have already cancelled or will likely cancel in the coming weeks. The cancellations reported as of March 15 will result in a loss of 41 to 65 million net square feet (NSF) and $2.3 billion to $3.6 billion in show organizer revenue, according to CEIR. When combined with the loss of direct spending by exhibitors and attendees, CEIR estimates the total impact to the economy to be a loss of between $14 billion and $22 billion.

“We have been closely monitoring the progress of COVID-19 in anticipation of how it will impact our industry for weeks,” noted CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM. “Data collection and analysis takes time and we are pleased to have enough information now to answer some of the questions we have been receiving.”

According to CEIR, as of March 15, 50 B2B events have announced their cancellations, which altogether amounted to a total loss of 5.2 million NSF and $318 million in show organizer revenue, with a loss to the economy of $1.8 billion when direct spending of attendees and exhibitors are taken into account. Among those events:

  • Inspired Home Show by the International Housewares Association (over 800,000 NSF);
  • HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) Global Health Conference and Exhibition (over 600,000 NSF);
  • ASD (Affordable Shopping Destination) Market Week (about 600,000 NSF); and
  • Natural Products Expo West (nearly 600,000 NSF).

For an expanded list of cancelled and postponed events, visit Northstar Meetings Group’s constantly updated list here.

CEIR reports that there are about 9,400 B2B exhibitions held in the U.S. each year, and estimates the trade-show industry’s total impact on the U.S. GDP is $101 billion in 2019, up from $97 billion in 2018.

“At this point, the decline in the exhibition industry is a one-off retraction of the industry’s size,” said CEIR Economist Allen Shaw, Ph.D., chief economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates, Inc. “Since this is a transitory event, we expect a full recovery for the exhibition industry in 2021.”