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Report: In-person business events bounced back in early 2022
May 24, 2022 |
Percentage of in-person event cancellations per quarter. (Source: CEIR)

Attendance numbers, revenues still below pre-pandemic levels

The business-to-business exhibitions industry “improved significantly” during the first quarter of 2022, when only 9.2% of all in-person events were canceled. That’s the lowest cancellation rate since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, according to the latest quarterly report from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research.

CEIR noted that other performance measures—including attendance and revenue—remained below pre-pandemic levels but were still a vast improvement from those of the last two years. During the first three months of 2021, 91.3% of in-person events were canceled.

“B2B exhibitions offer opportunities for buyers to find alternative reasonable-price supplies under the current elevated inflation environment and persistence of global supply chain challenges,” said CEIR Economist Allen Shaw, who is also chief economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates. “The B2B exhibition cancellation rate should decline further and the performance of completed events will continue to improve.”

Among the findings:

  • Only half of canceled in-person events during the first quarter were replaced with virtual events. That is a drop from previous quarters when as many as 70% to 80% of canceled events were replaced with virtual offerings.
  • Events held in early 2022 drew fewer exhibitors and attendees than during the first quarter of 2019, and they made less money. CEIR reported a 29% drop in overall exhibit space, a 30.1% drop in exhibitors, a 32.9% drop in attendees and a 34.2% drop in revenues.
  • CEIR’s survey data suggests the exhibitions industry will continue to recover in 2022, with exhibitors indicating a “strong intent” to return to in-person events. That intent was “slightly softer” among attendees.

“Despite Omicron at the outset of 2022, our industry pressed on; many have held their events and have done so successfully and safely,” CEIR CEO Cathy Breden said in a news release about the report. “While it will take time to get back to 2019 performance levels, we are on our way.”