CEIR Q2 2022 Index: Strong Rebound of U.S. B2B Exhibition Industry Prevails

September 15, 2022

During its annual Predict Conference, currently being held at MGM National Harbor outside Washington, D.C., the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) unveiled the second quarter results of its 2022 Index, showing significant improvement of the U.S. B2B exhibition industry compared to the previous nine quarters.

According to the results, cancellation rates for physical in-person events fell to just 2% in Q2 2022 compared to 66.2% in Q2 2021 and 100% in Q2 2020. Of all shows originally scheduled to be held in Q2 2022, 0.6% were postponed, 1.9% were cancelled and 97.5% were completed as scheduled.

While the drop in cancellations and the improvement in completed events boosted the Q2 2022 Index results, as expected, the CEIR Total Index—a measure of overall exhibition performance—shows the industry remains in recovery overall, coming in at 25.5% lower than 2019 levels.

Nonetheless, it is a vast improvement compared to the past two years, according to CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, who pointed to index results and research such as the CEIR Omnichannel Study indicating that industry recovery will accelerate, particularly with safety measures implemented at large gatherings and a majority of the population vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19.

“Despite Omicron at the outset of 2022 and variants that have followed, our industry presses on, and many have held their events and have done so successfully and safely,” Breden said. “CEIR research has documented an intent to return to face-to-face engagement at B2B exhibitions, and CEIR Index quarterly results show recovery is happening.”

Q2 2022 Exhibition Industry Performance

The Q2 2022 Index results speak to a continuing but current uneven recovery, although the direction continues to be positive, with the overall index and specific metrics improving for the past five quarters. For the first time, attendees, a leading indicator for the industry’s recovery, is one of the strongest-performing metrics. Among completed events, 10.5% have surpassed their pre-pandemic levels of the CEIR Total Index. Some organizers launched new shows, expanded existing shows to new locations or held them at a different time of the year.

Specific Q2 2022 performance results compared to Q2 2019, excluding cancelled events include:

  • Completed events (-24%)
  • Attendees (-22.4%)
  • Exhibitors (-23.5%)
  • Net square feet (-23.8%)
  • Real revenues (-26.3%)

U.S. GDP and the CEIR Total Index

The performance of the U.S. economy was far better, registering a 3.8% increase in real (inflation-adjusted) GDP from Q2 2019 to Q2 2022. On a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) basis, real GDP in Q2 declined 0.6% from the previous quarter, on top of a decline of 1.6% SAAR in Q1.

The drop in real GDP primarily reflected decreases in private inventory investment. The recent slower pace of inventory accumulation bodes well for GDP growth during the second half of the year, as many firms will place new orders rather than rely on existing stocks of merchandise. During the past two years, economic recovery has been led by strong spending on goods. However, the initially sluggish recovery in services industries recently has continued to pick up the pace. In Q2 2022, real spending on consumer services finally recovered pandemic losses, exceeding Q4 2019 spending levels by 0.9%. Other services industries are seeing similar improvements.

Insights on a Recession

There have been different views on whether the economy is in a recession and its implications on the exhibition industry. In CEIR’s view, two consecutive quarters of declines in real GDP does not mean the economy is in a recession, even though a well-known rule of thumb is that two or more consecutive quarters of declines in real GDP imply a recession. Both Q1 and Q2 real GDP came off from a sizzling level of real GDP growth in Q4 2021 (6.9% SAAR). On a year-over-year basis, real GDP increased 3.5% in Q1 and 1.7% in Q2. The recession arbiter, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), declares a recession when there is “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and lasts more than a few months.”

“Easing inflation and moderate economic growth ahead should lay a firm foundation of support to the B2B exhibition industry,” said CEIR Economist Dr. Allen Shaw, chief economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates. “The B2B exhibition cancellation rate should remain extremely low, and the performance of completed events will continue to improve.”

2022 CEIR Index Report 

Released in May, the 2022 CEIR Index Report analyzes the 2021 exhibition industry performance and provides an economic and exhibition industry outlook for the next three years. CEIR collects data directly from B2B exhibition organizers, who are encouraged to provide their show data by using the Event Performance Analyzer. In exchange for submitting data for a valid B2B exhibition, this tool enables an organizer to instantly see how an event’s performance compares to CEIR Index benchmarks at no cost. This tool was recently updated and provides users with a forecast for 2022. Data submission is strictly confidential.

Click here for information on how to purchase the complete 2022 CEIR Index Report as well as individual sector reports.

Photo: CEIR CEO Cathy Breden and 2022 CEIR Chairperson Dennis Smith

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