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Exhibition, Convention & Meeting Industry in the U.S. - statistics & facts

The exhibition, convention & meeting industry is a segment of the business travel sector focusing on expos, corporate events, and gatherings. When meetings involve a large group of people, they are normally held at convention centers. As of 2019, the McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, was the largest convention center in the United States, ranking among the fifteen world’s largest exhibition halls. In terms of attendance, roughly 30 percent of the largest exhibitions and conventions in the U.S. had more than 2,500 participants in 2019, with just eight percent having fewer than 200 attendees. Overall, attendance plays a key role in this market, as on average 46 percent of the total revenue from large events and trade shows in the U.S. came from registration in 2019.

Budget and expenses

When considering large events with exhibitions, the average budget for meetings and conventions in the United States fluctuated between 2011 and 2019. As of 2019, it amounted to 1.3 million U.S. dollars, up by 100 thousand dollars over the previous year. According to a 2019 survey, the largest part of the budget is normally spent on catering as food and beverages accounted for 29 percent of exhibition and meeting costs. Naturally, sending employees to corporate events is also a cost for their companies, which normally cover business travel expenses. As of 2019, the cost per attendee of conferences and tradeshows in North America amounted to an average of 657 U.S. dollars.

COVID-19's impact on exhibitions and meetings

The coronavirus pandemic had a large impact on the exhibition, convention & meeting industry. Travel bans and recommendations for physical distancing were put in place worldwide, resulting in several in-person exhibitions and meetings being canceled or rescheduled. According to a June 2020 survey, the share of organizations canceling B2B exhibitions due to the pandemic in the U.S. reached 73 percent. Meanwhile, the share of canceled U.S. B2B exhibitions offering digital content rose from April to June 2020. Ultimately, while the meeting industry is making the most out of digital options during the pandemic, a December 2020 poll found that over half of U.S. travelers who recently attended a convention or conference preferred in-person meetings over hybrid ones.

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