Exhibition Executives Predict Growth in the Year Ahead

ECEF Pulse Survey sees mostly positive signs for convention and trade show business.

The exhibition industry is in an exuberantly expansive mode. That's the main takeaway from the 2019 ECEF Pulse survey from the Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum networking event, which found that a majority of exhibition and convention executives polled expect to see growth in many areas of trade show business.

More than half (52 percent) of the 201 respondents expect to see a rise in exhibitions this year, while 38 percent expect no change. Additionally, 56 percent predict growth in net square feet of sold exhibit space, and 50 percent forecast growing sponsorship sales, while 33 percent and 37 percent expect no change, respectively, in those areas.

The survey also found that 46 percent expect their profitability to grow this year. While that is less than the 52 percent who said the same in 2018, another 44 percent of respondents predict profitability to at least remain level. 

Respondents also were generally positive about attendance numbers for the year ahead, with 47 percent predicting a rise in exhibition/convention attendees (up from 45 percent who said the same last year), and another 40 percent expecting it to stay at current levels. 

But the executives made note of challenges, as well, with two-thirds of respondents citing it as extremely/very challenging when it comes to growing attendance. Some 45 percent of respondents plan to increase spending to drive attendance, while 49 percent will keep their spend at current levels. 

The findings were released as a preview of the full, 27-page survey, which will be released at the Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum taking place on May 29 at the JW Marriott Washington, D.C.