As trade show organizers look ahead to next year, it looks like they may have a bigger mountain to climb to reach success. According to the most recent results for the Center for Exhibition Industry Research Index, the entire exhibition industry grew by a measly 0.2 percent in the third quarter of 2013.
“The paltry growth was due mainly to a 2.1 percent year-over-year decline in attendees, which in part is attributable to the budget impasse,” Allen Shaw, Ph.D., Chief Economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates, Inc., says. “Poor attendance appeared in many industries, especially the government and education sectors.”
That attendance decrease is the biggest the industry has seen since the middle of the recession in 2009.
While some meeting professionals may have been able to escape feeling the immediate impact of sequestration cuts and the government shutdown, this analysis highlights that the industry has been hit hard by decisions in Washington, D.C. Meetings were cancelled or postponed, and fewer government employees participated in those that continued as planned.
SEE ALSO: What Attendees Want from Exhibitors
Bad News, Good News
Despite the lackluster attendance numbers, there were a few positive signs. The number of exhibitors increased 0.2 percent, and the net square feet increased 0.6 percent. These gains paved the way for real revenues to rise 2.2 percent.
Outside of percentages and statistics, some individual shows continue to chart the way forward.
“Anecdotally, there are many events doing very well and in fact setting records now in the fourth quarter,” Douglas Ducate, CEM, CMP, President and CEO, CEIR, says. “Hopefully, that will result in meeting our forecast for the year and provide momentum moving into 2014.”
SEE ALSO: This Booth Idea Could Completely Change Trade Shows
Is There More Trouble Ahead?
However, that momentum could encounter a serious stumbling block if lawmakers pass H.R. 2061, a bill more commonly known as the DATA Act. The bill focuses on government transparency, but between the lines, there are additional restrictions for federal travel and conference spending. If those restrictions are approved by the U.S. Senate, these numbers could become even more worrisome for the trade show industry. Click here to read more about the bill and how you can let your representative know why it should not be signed into law.