Late last year, economic forecasters made optimistic, albeit tepid, predictions about the year ahead. Kiplinger economist David Payne anticipated the Trump administration's tax cuts would contribute to a 2.9-percent increase in U.S. gross domestic product, just over last year's growth rate of 2.3 percent. Similarly, Bill Conerly of Forbes predicted a slight uptick in consumer spending despite the now-slowing rise in disposable income and job growth.
A similar brand of cautious positivity can be found among those in the exhibit- and event-marketing industry. Less than half of the 400 face-to-face marketing professionals who responded to EXHIBITOR Magazine's 2018 Economic Outlook Survey expressed optimism about the effectiveness of trade shows as a marketing medium, a number slightly higher than last year's results. And 79 percent described their feelings about the economy as "optimistic" or "hopeful," which is identical to data from our 2017 survey.
Forty-seven percent of respondents are maintaining their 2017 trade show budgets, while 30 percent are receiving increases averaging 17.9 percent. Granted, 23 percent are seeing budgetary reductions, but with three-fourths letting their investments ride or anteing up, the data bodes well for the year to come. Having said that, 26 percent of respondents anticipate possibly having to reallocate at least a portion of their exhibit and event funds to other marketing activities in the coming year, so it's possible that when all is said and done, this year's spending levels could end up essentially unchanged compared to those of 2017.
Even so, there are other reasons to remain optimistic. First, 60 percent of respondents have at least tentative plans to purchase a new exhibit in 2018, with 26 percent reporting definite plans to do so. Plus, nearly nine out of 10 survey participants are confident that their trade show programs will achieve better results this year than last, citing everything from better execution and redesigned exhibits to enhanced lead tracking and fulfillment capabilities as justification for their optimistic outlook.
The following charts feature data from the 2018 Economic Outlook Survey, including allocations and predictions for trade shows and other marketing mediums. To share your thoughts on the results, visit the EXHIBITOR Facebook page or LinkedIn group and join the discussion.