Event cancellations remain more the exception than the norm
This post was updated at 12 p.m. Jan. 12.
A growing number of associations are canceling upcoming in-person events as a result of the recent surge in new COVID-19 cases, but most groups are pushing ahead with their trade shows and conferences.
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The Toy Association is the latest group to announce the cancellation of its trade show, which had been scheduled for mid-February at the Javits Center in New York City. The news followed cancellation announcements of in-person events by the Entertainment Software Association, FMI–The Food Industry Association, American Metrological Society and American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“Certainly, there are legitimate concerns around the pandemic that has guided thinking,” Toy Association CEO Steve Pasierb said in a statement Tuesday. “Many are saying they are very comfortable with being at the Javits Center and at the show given strict health and safety protocols in place, while travel concerns and for some, staff absences due to illness at home, rightfully weigh on their minds.”
The CEO also blamed “constant, unfounded rumors” on social media and elsewhere that defied the association’s efforts to sustain the show amid global uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.
While the number is growing, event cancellations remain the exception. The Consumer Trade Association recently concluded an in-person CES trade show in Las Vegas, although attendance at the event was about 70% lower than its last in-person show in 2020.
The Archery Trade Association held its annual trade show around the same time in Louisville, Ky. The average attendance is about 9,500 individuals. This year’s show drew 4,302 individuals, ATA said in a statement.
“It’s obvious members at the show came to focus on the success of the industry,” said Maria Lewis, ATA’s senior director of trade show and membership. “Our members know how important business relationships are and that the ATA Show provides those opportunities to connect.”
The Modern Language Association and American Historical Association kicked off in-person conferences Jan. 6, in Washington, D.C., and New Orleans respectively. The American Farm Bureau Federation launched its annual in-person convention the next day in Atlanta. The American Bus Association wrapped its annual Marketplace show in Grapevine, Texas, on Tuesday.
Other associations with upcoming events are pressing forward. The National Shooting Sports Federation will open its annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas Jan. 18. The National Retail Federation is set to launch its annual Big Show at the Javits Center on Saturday.
“The overwhelming sentiment from our members, exhibitors, retailers, partners and attendees is that we should go forward with the show,” NRF CEO Matt Shay said in a Jan. 10 LinkedIn post. “As we move from pandemic to endemic—a new environment in which we say life can and should go on—there’s going to be friction as we adjust. This year’s show is a step forward, and we believe it’s a necessary and meaningful one.”
The latest COVID surge comes after association trade shows and conferences began to make a comeback in the latter half of 2021. Show organizers are taking many precautions to alleviate concerns about COVID, although some are stricter than others. NRF is providing self tests along with access to PCR tests on site. New York City and the Javits Center require proof of vaccination for admission to events, and participants will be required to wear face masks, according to the association.
NSSF will not require proof of vaccination for its SHOT Show. However, Nevada mandates the use of face masks at indoor venues, so the association will provide masks to attendees.
Other upcoming in-person events include the American Seed Trade Association’s Vegetable & Flower Seed Conference in San Diego Jan. 28-Feb. 1. AASA—The School Superintendents Association said in a Jan. 11 statement that Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has been confirmed as a speaker for its Feb. 17-19 conference in Nashville.
“I am pleased that thousands of our members will join us in Nashville to participate in enriching discussion and intensive debate on the critical issues they’re facing every day and how it impacts their leadership roles, community collaboration, district outcomes and student success,” said AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech.