Pandemic woes to linger for U.S. trade show industry

As most major trade shows and industry exhibitions were either cancelled or carried out virtually since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the billion-dollar industry behind major trade shows is set to suffer a crushing decline in sales this year. According to estimates from PwC, the U.S. trade show market alone will see exhibition spending drop by USD10 billion this year, a 64 per cent decline compared to 2019.

To make things worse, PwC doesn’t expect the market to fully recover for years, as businesses may look to limit their expenses during the period of recovery. Moreover, some people may have grown accustomed to meeting potential clients virtually over the past few months, posing the question whether trade shows, and business travel in general, will ever return to pre-pandemic levels.

As the above chart shows, PwC doesn’t expect the trade show market to return to 2019 levels by 2024, despite the fact that they’re predicting a steady rebound in exhibition spending starting in 2021.