The ripple effects of the current economic crisis are being felt in the convention and trade show industry, as some shows downsize significantly or cancel outright.
This past November, San Francisco's Moscone Center lost two major corporate events when Network Appliance and Cisco Systems canceled their 2009 conventions within weeks of each other, costing the city 50,000 hotel room nights.
The two meetings, scheduled for February and August, respectively, were estimated to have a combined economic impact of between $60 million and $70 million, according to the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Also feeling the pinch are consumer shows. The Consumer Electronics Show, a mammoth event held every January in Las Vegas, has been scaled back as exhibitors such as Cisco Systems, Logitech and Yahoo have reduced their participation. A Yahoo spokesperson said that instead of a huge booth on the floor, the company would hold "private meetings in our hotel suite with our channel partners."
Earlier, DigiLife Expo, an annual event that draws upward of 50,000 "techies," canceled its 2008 show, scheduled to be held last September at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. In a statement, Ziff Davis Media, the show's producer, said "poor economic conditions have created a very different and difficult dynamic for us this year, and we weren't confident that we could present a show experience that was consistent with the successes of prior years."
The fallout in lost business is not unusual, according to Steven Hacker, president of the Dallas-based International Association of Exhibitions & Events. "Based upon earlier recessions, it is very typical for exhibitors with large exhibits to trim down and defer the construction of new exhibits," he said.
The real test, Hacker added, would be how association business performs in 2009. "Association-sponsored annual events are a bit more resilient, since most bylaws require them to conduct an annual meeting of members, and many of those include a trade show," he noted.
Not surprisingly, convention center hotels also face an uncertain 2009, according to Hendersonville, Tenn.-based Smith Travel Research. "Because many conventions are planned and booked a year or more in advance, the full effect of current economic conditions may not be felt until mid-2009," said an STR spokesperson.