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According to the results of EXHIBITOR Magazine's 2019 Economic Outlook Survey, this year should prove better than last in terms of budgets and return on investment. Still, a healthy amount of skepticism is keeping marketers from throwing caution to the wind when it comes to their exhibit- and event-related investments.
Last year was like an economic roller coaster filled with highs and lows. It started off strong with bullish stock-market gains, then free-fell when tariffs, trade wars, and interest-rate increases spooked investors and sparked fears of a possible recession. As such, economists are split in terms of their forecasts for 2019, with some experts hopefully predicting another stock-market rebound and others fearing the worst. But according to the results of EXHIBITOR Magazine's 2019 Economic Outlook Survey, which gauged the opinions and expectations of more than 200 exhibit and event professionals, face-to-face marketers are erring on the side of optimism.

Compared to data from last year's survey, it appears that more marketers are receiving budget bumps from upper management. For example, 77 percent of last year's survey respondents reported they were maintaining or increasing their trade show allocations compared to 2017. This year, that number climbs to 84 percent, with more than one-third of companies experiencing year-over-year upticks in their exhibit-marketing investments. Furthermore, 93 percent of respondents say they feel generally "hopeful" or "optimistic" about the effectiveness of trade shows as a marketing medium, compared to just 88 percent one year ago.

That optimism has fueled expectations of increased returns on face-to-face marketing investitures. Nearly nine out of 10 respondents are either "confident" or "extremely confident" that their trade show programs will achieve better results in 2019 than they did in 2018, citing everything from improved execution and enhanced lead tracking capabilities to new builds and better booth staffing as justifications for their positive outlooks.

Having said that, not all indicators are quite so rosy. Since 2018, there has been an 8-percent increase in the number of exhibitors who report feeling "cautious" or "pessimistic" about the economy. And the survey charted a 5-percent dip in the number of respondents who have "definite" or "tentative" plans to allocate funds to purchase a new booth this year compared to last.

The following pages feature additional data from the 2019 Economic Outlook Survey, along with participants' responses to questions regarding the future of our industry. To share your thoughts on the results, visit the EXHIBITOR Facebook page or LinkedIn group and join the discussion. And for more information on EXHIBITOR's research projects, visit www.ExhibitorOnline.com/Research.




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