Manufacturing Conventions are Coming Back, But It’ll Take Time
The global impact of 2020 brought the manufacturing trade show circuit to a standstill. Now, moving into the end of 2021, trade shows are struggling to reemerge as lingering effects from the pandemic persist. Many are wondering if conventions will ever come back into fashion. The answer is yes, but it will take some time. The travel, expense, proximity, and logistics associated with conventions are all still substantial barriers to getting them up and running at full capacity again.
The pandemic has convention organizers cautious
Even with vaccines and mask mandates, many organizers remain fearful of hosting in-person conventions. Topping the list of legitimate fears is the highly contagious Delta Variant, which can be contracted and spread even by those who are already vaccinated. The current so-called “Fifth Wave” of the COVID-19 pandemic is primarily fueled by Delta Variant cases.
Health concerns from the Delta Variant have already brought the cancellation of several trade shows. The New York Auto Show, set to take place in August, was canceled just two weeks prior to the event. In past years, the New York Auto Show has welcomed over one million attendees — a demonstration of the powerful trepidation the pandemic still inspires.
Liability is another fear accompanying large events during the pandemic. No one wants their event tainted by a spike in COVID-19 cases. The 2020 Biogen Leadership Conference in Boston was linked to roughly 300,000 COVID-19 cases, and organizers were soundly chastised for moving forward with the event despite recommendations to cancel or go remote.
Travel concerns persist for global trade shows
Traveling to in-person events is another area rife with challenges. Numerous travel restrictions remain in place, and many countries are re-enacting travel bans, making global trade shows difficult for most to attend. Several popular trade events have already witnessed the effects of travel restrictions. The Canton Trade Fair in China, for example, had approximately 26,000 world vendors scheduled to appear virtually instead of in-person — largely due to travel restrictions.
Countries with ongoing travel restrictions include France, Spain, Denmark, Italy, Norway, and many others. With trade shows held all over the globe, travel restrictions play a significant role in dropping attendance rates.
Trade show budgets simply aren’t there
It’s difficult to put on a world class trade show without the appropriate budget. Here again, the pandemic has affected trade shows for the better part of two years, making it difficult for future shows to find purchase.
According to the Events Industry Council, trade shows in prior years generated over $1 trillion annually. But in 2020, trade conventions only generated around $24 billion. From a forward-looking perspective, and in an ongoing pandemic environment, it’s no wonder many organizers are opting to either wait or remain virtual.
Virtual events allow for safer and more manageable vendor promotion of products. They’re also far less expensive to host and attend. Hybrid events have been the lone bright spot for event organizers during the pandemic and will remain a failsafe in the face of safety, travel, and budget limitations.
Trade shows will return . . . eventually
Many people miss what they previously took for granted — the social and business activity associated with meandering around a buzzing expo center or attending a conference in a crowded convention center lecture hall. Unfortunately, it appears we’ll be waiting longer than we’d like until for these events to return to full capacity. The good news is, though it might take a year or two, manufacturing trade shows and conventions will be back. And they can expect a warm welcome when they return.