Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Attendance Down 70% at the Tech Industry's Biggest Gadget Show

By The Daily Upside – Jan 9, 2022 at 9:00PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

One of the biggest trade conferences in the world wrapped up on Friday, a year after its in-person component was canceled in favor of a...

For more crisp and insightful business and economic news, subscribe to The Daily Upside newsletter. It's completely free and we guarantee you'll learn something new every day.

One of the biggest trade conferences in the world wrapped up on Friday, a year after its in-person component was canceled in favor of a digital-only event.

If anything can be said, it's that the Omicron wave convinced a lot of people to wave goodbye to in-person meetings again. Las Vegas' wildly popular Consumer Electronics Show drew 45,000 people last week, a 70% dropoff from the 170,000 who came to the pre-pandemic convention in January 2020. That's not stopping the events industry from projecting a brave face for 2022.

It's Not In-Personal

While it's hard to imagine people missing the subpar hotel lobby croissants, last year saw a modest comeback for in-person industry conferences. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) estimates about 15 million people attended industry events in 2021, double the 2020 figure though still half of pre-pandemic 2019.

But the Omicron wave — which has sent Covid case numbers to record levels throughout the world — has clearly put a damper on things. Even though CES required attendees to wear masks and provide proof of vaccination, major firms including Amazon, Meta, T-Mobile, BMW, Lenovo, AT&T, Intel, GM, Google, and Twitter all canceled their in-person attendance in the weeks leading to the event.

Major organizers, for now, seem undeterred:

  • Informa, the world's largest trade show organizer, said it plans to sell off £1.7bn in assets in its publications business and redeploy some of that into its events business.
  • According to CEIR, show cancellation rates of US business conferences improved to 19% in the third quarter of last year, a striking improvement from the 98% that canceled in the second half of 2020.

Not Buying It: The markets are still very skeptical. Informa's stock price is down more than 35% since the start of 2020, France's GL Events is down 25% and NYSE-listed Emerald Holding 62%.


Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.