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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