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The B2B Exhibition Industry Recovery Forges On, Proving Its Resiliency Again

cartoon illustration depicting B2B exhibitions with globe encasing graph arrows pointing upward surrounded by business icons and CEIR logo at bottom
CEIR VP of Research Nancy Drapeau examines the latest industry forecast published in the 2024 CEIR Index Report and discussed in CEIR’s recent webinar with Tourism Economics President Adam Sacks.

By Nancy Drapeau, IPC | Vice President of Research | CEIR

The 2024 CEIR Index Report is now out, published April 24. The outcome for 2023 is pretty close to last year’s forecast. It grew from a value of 74.4 to 89.0 from 2022 to 2023, recording a 19.6% year-over-year gain. An outstanding improvement though still trailing 2019 by 11.0%.

The outlook is strong moving forward, though the horizon to fully recover has been extended. Some sectors will surpass 2019 this year and others next year. Though for most of the remaining other sectors, full recovery is expected in 2026.

Why is this the case?

Answer: economic headwinds which place more stress on some sectors than others. Though the U.S. economy has consistently shown positive growth, countervailing forces such as inflation, interest rate hikes, and other macroeconomic factors have held back recovery.

Despite the drag the economy has placed on the industry’s recovery, what is exciting is continued, impressive growth. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that our industry was brought to a virtual halt. In Q1 of 2021, performance was 95.4% below 2019. So that in 2023, performance is only 11% below 2019 is amazing. And that positive momentum is expected to continue.

This achievement is an affirmation of the resiliency of the B2B exhibition industry channel. CEIR’s Omnichannel Study series documented in 2021 that most exhibitors, 94%, and 87% of attendees that participated in exhibitions in 2019 would return. And the reasons for returning that are detailed in this report series speak to the high value they assign to participating in the channel to meet their multiple business needs.

Am a big fan of Adam Sacks and the TE Oxford Economics team. They are leaders in economic forecasting, with deep experience in destination and travel research. I am grateful they have taken over Dr. Shaw’s excellent work and are now conducting the analyses and reporting for the CEIR Index.

In a webinar held on April 24, Adam shared key findings from their inaugural Index report. He discussed results for 2023, the forecast outlook through 2026, and macroeconomic, business environment reasons for the outcome for 2023 and what is apt to influence performance moving forward.

In the session, he also goes beyond macroeconomic factors and asserts the underlying factors that have supported the rapid recovery of our industry, its resiliency. Here’s what he said:

“I don’t think this is hyperbole…to say that we’ve experienced a dramatic recovery.”

“What we’ve learned once again, is that exhibitions, meeting in-person, is indispensable. It’s absolutely vital to business operations, it’s vital for the exhibitors, it’s vital for the organizers, and it’s vital for every single attendee and every single company that is participating in an exhibition; [to support] building partnerships, buying product and innovating, and career development and partnerships. All of the things that come out of exhibitions are what have been driving its recovery. And it’s that combined with the economic outlook that informs our view of the forecast for 2024, 2025 and 2026 [and results for] 2023.”

Well said, Adam. I fully agree!

Click here to purchase the 2024 CEIR Index Report or access the on-demand webinar recording of the CEIR webinar featuring Tourism Economics President Adam Sacks.

If you are a B2B exhibition organizer that has held a U.S. event in 2024, submit your event data and in exchange you will get the 2024 Index sector report at no cost. Click here to participate.

About the Author

Nancy Drapeau

Nancy Drapeau, IPC, is a 30-year market research veteran with more than 20 years in the business-to-business exhibitions industry. As CEIR’s Vice President of Research, Nancy conducts industry wide studies and reports on current trends in the exhibition industry. In 2019, she was named to BizBash’s 1,000 Most Influential People in Events list. She holds a BA in Government from Georgetown University and a Master’s in Advanced European and International Studies from l’Institut Européen des Hautes Études Internationales. She is an AC Nielsen Burke Institute trained focus group moderator. Nancy is a well-respected industry speaker and an active member of the Industry Insights Association, and has served as a member of the Events Industry Council’s (EIC) Research & Advocacy Task Force. She lives in Maine, with her husband and a border collie named Moxie.

The views and opinions expressed by blog authors are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events®. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. IAEE makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. IAEE will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information.

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