The Tradeshow “Bubble” – Part Three

In this third installment of taking a Bubble Mentality to safely returning to trade shows and events we want to look at the impact to a local economy. For the industry to return to some sense of normal, the obstacles that need to be overcome include regulators allowing venues to be open; event owners reasonably seeing a profitable path forward while avoiding undue liability, individual company policies allowing for travel and determining that the pent-up demand from their clients will justify exhibiting and/or attending and of course personal decisions as to health and safety by booth staffers and conference attendees.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the world’s largest business travel association, has just released the results of its latest COVID-19 Member Poll. The survey – the 14th such poll by GBTA since the onset of the pandemic to measure the impact on business travel – finds that most respondents are optimistic that the travel industry will begin to rebound in mid to late 2021 and that the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine is top of mind for many business travel professionals. The availability of flights to a show city is another consideration especially when larger tradeshows are reliant on international participation.

• Three out of four respondents expect employees to attend in-person meetings/events in Q2 or Q3 2021, with 89% of respondents set to attend an in-person meeting or event with attendees outside their company by Q3 2021. Notice how things improve as we get deeper into 2021.


• 87% of respondents expect to attend internal company meetings or events in person by Q3 2021. As attendance at in-person events increase through the year, attendance at hybrid meetings is expected to decline as 2021 unfolds. More face-to-face events – less zoom as time progresses.


I mention travel because it impacts revenues for airports, car rental agencies, Taxi and Uber drivers and of course hotels and restaurants. When hundreds of thousands (or more) of visitors to a city are not coming the impact on tourist attractions, convenience stores and retailers of all kinds adds hurt onto the pain of the Pandemics other localized damage.

This week KNBC-TV reported on the local impact of loss of tradeshows to Orange County, California. On March 4th as a tradeshow was already partially set up the Anaheim Convention Center was shut down. Since then:


·        128 Events have been cancelled at that facility

·        39 Events have been postponed

·        The impact to the local economy is estimated at $35 Million Dollars

·        Additionally, it is estimated Orange County has lost another $20 Million Dollars in Accommodation Tax Revenue


Many of the people who make tradeshows work in that city were protesting local regulations keeping the venue from re-opening although it is widely thought that controlled environments could make some events safe. Those people have now been unemployed for months. Many smaller companies in that area have had to close. Instead of contributing to the Public coffers they become a further drain.

Nationwide, it is estimated six million people are impacted by the tradeshow industry shutdown. When you add together the government costs to support many of these people; their lack of spending in their communities with the loss of tax revenue from events and the loss of spending from event participants local economies are hurt.

In cities where tradeshows and events play a big role, at a time when nationwide unemployment rates have been in the low to middle single digits Las Vegas has been in the upper 20 to 30% range; Chicago in November was over 14% and Orlando was over 20% in the Spring. All of these cities have improved a bit in the 4th quarter but will lag the US until their tradeshow economic drivers return.

The concept of taking a Bubble Mentality to shows means re-opening safely. That means all involved assume responsibilities for their own safety and that of others. Bubbles will start small; possibly with Regional Events being more prominent than larger international gatherings. The thing is to start, to be safe, and to recognize that some activity is far better than none.



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