CEIR Q1 Index Results Show U.S. B2B Exhibitions Industry on the Rebound

May 24, 2022

An expected rebound of the U.S. B2B exhibitions industry is underway, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), which released the results of its 2022 First Quarter Index on May 23. According to the stats, the U.S. business-to-business (B2B) exhibitions industry improved significantly in the first quarter of 2022, compared with the previous eight quarters, with cancellation rates for physical in-person events continuing to drop, compared with 2021.

In Q1 2022, the cancellation rate was 9.2%, compared to 91.3% in the first quarter of 2021, 66.2% in the second quarter, 20.6% in the third quarter and 12.5% in the fourth quarter. During the second half of 2020, approximately 98% of exhibitions were cancelled.

Figure 1: B2B Exhibitions Industry Cancellation Rate, % 

Figure 1

While the drop in cancellations and the improvement in completed events boosted the Q1 2022 Index result, as expected, the CEIR Total Index – a measure of overall exhibition performance – remains below 2019 levels, registering a decline of 37.9% (compared to 2019 as shown in Figure 2, below). But according to CEIR officials, this is a vast improvement compared with the four prior quarters: a decline of 94.0% from 2019 in Q1 2021; 75.6% from 2019 in Q2 2021; 50.6% from 2019 in Q3 2021; and 45.3% from 2019 in Q4 2021.

Meanwhile, the U.S. economy’s performance fared far better, registering a 4.8% increase in real (inflation-adjusted) GDP from Q1 2019. Real GDP declined at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 1.4% from the strong previous quarter (6.9% SAAR). 

The drop in real GDP reflected smaller increases in private inventory investment levels, lower exports and reduced government spending at all levels. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased dramatically at the same time. Personal consumption expenditures, nonresidential fixed investment and residential fixed investment increased. During the past two years, economic recovery has been led by strong spending on goods, however, the initially slow recovery in services industries recently increased. 

Figure 2: Real GDP vs. CEIR Total Index, Q1 2020-Q1 2022, % Change from 2019 

Figure 2


Of all the shows originally scheduled to be held in the first quarter, 1.6% were postponed, 8.3% cancelled and 90.1% were completed as scheduled. As indicated previously, excluding postponed events, the cancellation rate reached 9.2%. Among cancelled events in Q1 2022, 50% offered digital events instead, a drop from 78.5% in Q4 2021.







Figure 3: Distribution of Digital and Non-Digital Among Cancelled In-Person Events

Figure 3

Figure 4 provides insights among events that happened in Q1 2022, comparing performance with Q1 2019. Q1 2022 results demonstrate that a continued but choppy and uneven recovery is underway, though the direction is positive and the industry is slowly improving overall.  

Among completed events, 15.3% surpassed their pre-pandemic levels of the CEIR Total Index. Excluding canceled events, the Total Index for completed events in Q1 2022 dropped by 31.5% from 2019 (Figure 4), compared with a decline of 54.9% from 2019 in Q1 2021, 39.8% from 2019 in Q2 2021, 45.8% from 2019 in Q3 2021 and 40.5% from 2019 in Q4 2021. 

Real Revenues suffered the largest fall of 34.2%, followed by Attendees with a decline of 32.9%. Exhibitors tumbled 30.1%. Net Square Feet (NSF) in Q1 was the metric that contracted the least, 29% from the first quarter of 2019.


Figure 4: Q1 2022 CEIR Metrics for the Overall Exhibition Industry Excluding Cancellations, % Change from Q1 2019 

Figure 4

“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 Dr. Allen Shaw, chief economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates, Inc. “The B2B exhibition cancellation rate should decline further and the performance of completed events will continue to improve.”

CEIR survey research and Index results indicate that the industry’s recovery will accelerate, while CEIR Omnichannel Study results indicate strong intent to return to trade shows in 2022, particularly on the exhibitor side and with a slightly softer intent among attendees. Thus, as COVID-19 ebbs, there is more motivation to return to participating in the B2B exhibition channel.

Unsurprisingly, there continues to be pent-up demand for face-to-face engagement. The January 2022 COVID-19 Impact and Recovery survey results indicate that an overwhelming percentage of show organizers have plans to run their 2022 events, despite COVID-19 being a factor when the survey was fielded.

“Despite Omicron at the outset of 2022, our industry pressed on; many have held their events and have done so successfully and safely,” said CEIR CEO Cathy Breden. “While it will take time to get back to 2019 performance levels, we are on our way. With vaccine mandates and safety measures implemented at large gatherings, and with a majority of the population vaccinated, the recovery of B2B exhibitions should continue in 2022, unless a new variant causes a severe fifth wave of COVID-19 infections.”

These promising results come as CEIR releases its 2022 Index Report on May 24, which analyzes the 2021 exhibition industry performance and provides an economic and exhibition industry outlook for the next three years. To purchase the complete 2022 CEIR Index Report as well as individual sector reports, go here.

CEIR collects data directly from exhibition organizers, who are encouraged to provide their show data by using the Event Performance Analyzer, which was recently updated and provides users with a forecast for 2022. In exchange for submitting data for a valid B2B exhibition, this tool enables an organizer to instantly see how an event’s performance compares with CEIR Index benchmarks at no cost. Data submission is strictly confidential and the annual CEIR Index Report for their shows’ market sector will be provided to participating organizers at no cost. 

A deep dive discussion on the state of the exhibitions industry will be discussed at the CEIR Predict Conference, taking place Sept. 15-16 at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, MD. Executive-level organizers are invited to attend and sponsorship opportunities for suppliers are available. 

Explanation and Definitions of Q1 Comparisons:

As explained above, in 2021, about 91% of trade shows scheduled to be held in the first quarter were cancelled, limiting the usefulness of comparisons of Q1 2021 and Q1 2022 results, as any positive change would be very large and misleading. A more useful comparison is with the 2019 performance, measured as the industry benchmark before COVID-19 forced the industry’s shutdown. Thus, events in the first quarter of 2022 are compared with those in the first quarter of 2019 in Figure 2 and Figure 4. The CEIR Total Index in Figure 2 is a weighted average that includes both cancelled events, with zero values for all exhibition metrics and completed events. The Total Index in Figure 4 excludes cancelled events.


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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.