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Trade Shows Still Lack Visitors

Events: Attendance is down nearly 8% in the most recent quarter as businesses continue to cut back on travel.


Trade show attendance, hit hard in the weeks immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, remained down in the most recent quarter, according to a report Monday.

The industry journal Tradeshow Week said attendance was down nearly 8% for the quarter ended June 30 compared with the year-earlier quarter, as tightened access to U.S. borders reduced foreign attendance and businesses continued to cut back on discretionary travel.

The most recent figure, which does not include shows added this year, followed declines of 8.1% in the first quarter and 20.4% in the fourth quarter of last year, the magazine said.

Although technology shows saw some of the steepest drops--about 20% on average--the pain was not restricted to one sector.

The Atlantic City Variety Merchandise Show saw attendance plummet 80%, and the Vending and Food Service Industry expo saw attendance cut almost in half.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday September 11, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 ..CF: Y 4 inches; 178 words Type of Material: Correction
Trade shows--An article in Tuesday's Business section on trade shows incorrectly stated that attendance fell at this year's Atlantic City Variety Merchandise Show. Attendance increased about 6%, show organizers said.

Drops like those, combined with a decrease in the number of exhibitors and the amount of space used, are sending show producers scrambling for new strategies, including promoting more shows in foreign markets.

In addition, more shows are teaming up to share the same schedule and venue, said Douglas L. Ducate, president of the Chicago-based Center for Exhibition Industry Research. He cited the Food Marketing Institute's show in May, which was held alongside a smaller event for specialty food manufacturers.

"Show managers are instituting more aggressive marketing campaigns," said Carol Andrews, editor of Tradeshow Week. "They're going after attendees that they didn't before."

Even before the terrorist attacks, the industry was seeing softening in attendance, number of exhibitors and space used, Tradeshow Week said.

The terrorist attacks pushed those numbers off the charts, with third-and fourth-quarter shows last year posting record lows for all three measures. Attendance at the 15 shows that opened in the weeks after the attacks saw attendance plummet nearly 14%, the industry publication said.

"The real question is what drops in attendance mean for exhibitors," Andrews said.

"If attendance isn't what it should be, exhibitors will pull out of some shows."

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