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Exhibition Industry Continues to Grow

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) reports that the recent growth of the exhibition industry continued during the fourth quarter of 2018. The growth of the industry, as measured by the CEIR Total Index, accelerated from a year-over-year gain of 0.9% in the third quarter to 2.5% in the fourth quarter (see Figure 1). With this stronger performance, the exhibition industry has narrowed the growth gap with inflation-adjusted GDP (see Figure 2).

Figure 1: Quarterly CEIR Total Index for the Overall Exhibition Industry, Year-over-Year Growth, 2011Q1-2018Q4

Figure 2: Quarterly CEIR Total Index for the Overall Exhibition Industry vs. Quarterly Real GDP, Year-over-Year Growth, 2008Q1-2018Q4

“The performance during the fourth quarter shows the resilience of the exhibition industry despite uncertainties surrounding the trade negotiation with China, volatile stock markets and slowing world economic growth,” said CEIR Economist Allen Shaw, Ph.D., Chief Economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates, Inc.

Food; Government; and Raw Materials and Science all registered robust year-over-year gains. In contrast, Consumer Goods and Retail Trade; Financial, Legal, and Real Estate; and Transportation posted year-over-year declines.

All exhibition metrics in the fourth quarter posted positive year-over-year gains (Figures 3 and 4). Real revenues (nominal revenues adjusted for inflation) and attendees posted the largest increase of 4.4% and 3.2%, respectively. Net square feet (NSF) rose 1.6% and exhibitors expanded 1.0%.

Figure 3: Quarterly CEIR Metrics for the Overall Exhibition Industry, Year-over-Year Growth, 2018Q4

Figure 4: Quarterly CEIR Metrics for the Overall Exhibition Industry, Year-over-Year Growth, 2009-2018Q4

For the year 2018 as a whole, the Total Index increased by 1.9%, just slightly lower than the 2.0% gain in 2017. At 109.0 (2014=100), the Total Index in 2018 surpassed the previous peak of 107.6 in 2007.

“Nearly a decade after the Great Recession, the exhibition industry in 2018 has finally entered an aggregate size above the previous peak,” said CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE. “Barring an unexpected recession, the overall growth for the industry in 2019 will continue, albeit at a modest pace, as the economy remains healthy, even though a little softer than 2018.”

In addition to compiling the quarterly exhibition index, CEIR also offers analytical tools, an annual in-depth report and an outlook conference. The CEIR Event Performance Analyzer provides exhibition organizers with a tool to measure how an event is performing in its sector, as well as in the overall industry. The CEIR Index Report provides an economic overview of the exhibition industry, including key indicators for growth. Together, these resources provide insights for developing business strategies and goals. The 2019 CEIR Index Report will be released in April and will include a three-year forecast for the business-to-business exhibitions and events industry.

The annual CEIR Predict Conference, scheduled for 16-17 September 2019 at the MGM National Harbor, will provide exhibition professionals with macroeconomic insights and help attendees understand the economic and political factors impacting the exhibition industry.

About CEIR
The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) serves to advance the growth, awareness and value of exhibitions and other face-to-face marketing events by producing and delivering knowledge-based research tools that enable stakeholder organizations to enhance their ability to meet current and emerging customer needs, improve their business performance and strengthen their competitive position. For additional information, visit


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