ASM Global Leads the Return to In-Person Trade Shows as Host to Expo! Expo! in Philly

December 8, 2021
Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia

ASM Global, the largest venue management company in the world, is continuing to lead the way for the return of in-person events, this time in Philadelphia, as host to the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) Annual Meeting and Exhibition, Expo! Expo! 2021 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC) Dec. 7-9.

IAEE is the trade group that represents the exhibition industry, which contributed $396 billion annually to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and supported 6.6 million jobs prior to the pandemic. Expo! Expo! 2021, the largest think tank of trade show organizers and ecosystem partners since the pandemic began, is being held on the heels of other recent successful gatherings at PCC.

After serving as a vaccination site for the community during the height of the pandemic, PCC reopened for events in April 2021 and hosted its first major trade show, Natural Products Expo East (NPE), in September. The event attracted approximately 15,000 attendees and 800 exhibitors

IAEE is expected to draw about 1,500 visitors and 185 exhibiting companies, including a large percentage of small and mid-sized businesses—the backbone of the face-to-face business events industry. 

Businesses are anxious to return to live events, where business is done, connections are made and new products are launched. In 2019, U.S. exhibitions hosted 1.7 million exhibitors nationwide annually, 80% of which were small businesses. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) research indicates that the U.S. exhibition industry will ramp up significantly in 2022.

“This is an incredible opportunity to address the pent-up demand of the last 20 months,” said ASM Global President and CEO Ron Bension, who was appointed to this position in March 2021. “Hosting IAEE offers PCC and ASM Global the opportunity to lead these large-scale events back to live."

He continued, “ASM will leverage this experience at a local level to inform and improve efforts around the world to benefit its vast global network. This event begins what we see as the upcoming business meeting boom in Philadelphia and worldwide.”

State-of-the-Art Health and Safety Protocols

At PCC events and other ASM Global-managed venues, the company is showcasing its industry-leading program, VenueShield, which sets a new standard in venue and event cleanliness and safety. In partnership with Drexel University School of Medicine and in accordance with international health care guidelines from the CDC, NHS, PHAA and WHO, ASM Global has implemented VenueShield at all of its 300-plus worldwide  facilities.

In addition, ASM Global will continue to evolve in the meetings and conventions space through partnerships like its recent deal with Qualtrics to capture guest and organizer data to continually improve on the future experience. 

“We remain committed to providing the safest environment possible to our trade show and convention clients across the globe,” Bension said. “ASM was the first in the industry to roll out new health and safety protocols and procedures in April 2020, and we have invested significant resources and are committed to redefining new health and safety standards.” 

ASM Global is honored to be hosting the first major gathering of convention and trade show organizers in the U.S. in two years, according to Kelvin Moore, regional general manager for ASM Global, which manages 80 convention centers, including some of the largest and busiest U.S. venues such as Chicago’s McCormick Place, San Francisco’s Moscone Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center. 

“We developed the PCC Reactivation Plan that incorporated environmental hygiene-focused cleaning protocols, staff training and the Covid-informed best practices of ASM Global’s VenueShield Program,” Moore said. “We also achieved GBAC STAR accreditation, and with the PCC Authority’s support completed $15 million in capital improvements for additional safety and sanitation at the center.”

As recent news of the Omicron variant emerged, ASM Global continued to utilize VenueShield to create the safest possible environment for IAEE and for all client events, guided by local regulations and CDC guidance. The City of Philadelphia currently requires masks to be worn inside all Philadelphia businesses and institutions, including restaurants. IAEE is also requiring that all attendees and exhibitors participating in the in-person Expo! Expo! event must be fully vaccinated and present proof of vaccination. 

“We believe we have the proper safety measures in place to best position the industry for the highly anticipated growth of live meetings and events,” Bension said. 

Reflecting and Rebounding

As the industry begins to successfully return to in-person events, it’s important to remember that since March 2020, the event industry and those who work in the industry have been devastated by COVID-19, with thousands of event cancellations and postponements. In fact, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research reported there was a 78.8% decline in exhibitions for 2020. At the local level in Philadelphia, hotel occupancy declined 59.5% from 2019 to 2020, 58% of all jobs lost were tourism and travel-related and there was a loss of $3.2 billion in economic activity due to lack of visitor spending in the city, according to the Philadelphia CVB 2020 Annual Report

With in-person events now on the rise, CEIR predicts the U.S. exhibition industry will fully rebound to pre-pandemic levels by 2023.

The rebound has already begun in Philadelphia and beyond. Since the pandemic, trade shows and events have had an economic impact of more than $190 million in Philadelphia alone. By comparison, 2019 events booked by the Philadelphia CVB (PHLCVB) generated $388 million in direct spend and $600 million in economic impact. As of October 2021, tourism in Philadelphia has supported 53,300 hospitality and tourism industry jobs. 

Looking ahead to 2022, more than 120 total events (including conventions and trade shows) have been booked by the PHLCVB, with nearly 300,000 expected attendees as of November. Some of the largest events include the Natural Products Expo East for the second year in a row and the American College of Rheumatology Annual Convention.

“We are excited to be welcoming ‘the show for shows,’  IAEE’s Expo! Expo! to Philadelphia,” said Gregg Caren, president and CEO of the PHLCVB. “Convention business like this has a strong impact on the city, supporting our vital hospitality industry in addition to small businesses and restaurants as Philadelphia focuses on getting back to business.”

He added, “Thanks to our partners at the Pennsylvania Convention Center for their efforts to continue to host safe and successful trade shows.”

Photo: Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.