Trade Show Executives See Widening Impact of U.S. Tariff Policy

CEIR survey finds revenue, exhibit sales and attendees negatively affected by trade war.

U.S. trade show organizers are concerned about the widening impact of their country's tariff policy. That was a finding of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research's survey of trade show executives, which found that tariffs are having an impact on three-quarters of surveyed organizations. 

Conducted at the annual CEIR Predict Conference in August, the survey indicated widespread impacts due to the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China, with 75 percent of executives who have held a U.S.-based B2B trade show in 2018 through July 2019 saying U.S. trade tariffs have had a negative impact on the industry. Just below half (48 percent) observed an impact on exhibitor participation, while 36 percent said it affected attendee participation in trade shows.

Fifty-five percent of respondents said that trade tariffs negatively impacted U.S.-based exhibitions (compared to 5 percent who found that it positively impacted them), with an average gross revenue loss of 7.7 percent.

The biggest impact was felt in exhibit sales and attendance for the Chinese market, with 80 percent and 78 percent citing lost exhibit sales and lost attendees from China, respectively. But the impacts extended beyond China. As far as the tariffs' negative impact on booth sales, 48 percent of respondents have seen it hit their domestic exhibitors, 26 percent saw European Union exhibitors impacted and 22 percent saw the ASEAN market impacted. Likewise, 38 percent saw an impact on attendees coming from the EU and U.S., and 34 percent saw their ASEAN attendees impacted, as well as those coming from Mexico (28 percent) and Canada (22 percent). 

CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, observing the tariffs' impacts beyond China, commented, "Why is this issue of concern to our industry? U.S. trade shows are a gateway to doing business in our country."

The organization emphasized that government data tracking economic activity is slow to quantify the impact that these trade policies have on the economy, making these more immediate "pulse surveys" a valuable tool for understanding how the trade show market is being affected.

"Very careful attention was paid to designing a survey that objectively gauged executive sentiment about the impact of these trade tariffs on the U.S. trade show industry," said CEIR vice president of research Nancy Drapeau, PRC, "and as well, to determine if impacts have been felt at U.S. trade shows that have taken place during the period that the trade war has been in play -- in 2018 through July 2019."