CHICAGO — A March trade show expected to bring 60,000 people to Chicago’s McCormick Place — as well as the city’s hotels and restaurants — has been canceled amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The International Housewares Association on Monday announced the decision to cancel the annual trade-only event, The Inspired Home Show, which was scheduled for March 14-17 and was expected to attract 2,200 exhibitors from 45 countries. The show was expected to bring $77 million in spending to Chicago, including on hotels, restaurants, transportation and entertainment, said association spokesman Leana Salamah.
It is the first major trade show in Chicago to be canceled as reports of coronavirus cases spread around the U.S. Virus concerns also have canceled industry events in Denver and Houston, as large companies opt out of even domestic events.
It was estimated the Inspired Home Show was responsible for 47,155 hotel room nights that would have been used during the show, McCormick Place spokeswoman Cynthia McCafferty said.
Several other groups are monitoring the outbreak, but none have announced cancellations for upcoming events scheduled at McCormick Place. McCormick Place is stepping up its cleaning and safety standards through public spaces, McCafferty said.
Natural Products Expo West, a food show set to start this week in Anaheim, Calif., announced Tuesday that it would be postponed, with a new date announced by mid-April, after dozens of companies including Kraft Heinz, which is co-headquartered in Chicago and Pittsburgh, pulled out. The event was expecting to draw 86,000 people and 3,600 exhibitors.
“It is now clear, despite continued advice from local government and health authorities that the City of Anaheim remains open, that the majority of our Community want the show, but they do not want it now,” organizer New Hope Network said in a posting on its website.
Some 600 exhibitors had dropped out of The Inspired Home Show over health concerns, according to the housewares association. The show will not be rescheduled.
“For the last several weeks, we have been watching this situation very carefully, with our primary concern being the safety and well-being of the home + housewares industry,” said Derek Miller, housewares association president, in a statement. “The IHA Board of Directors made this decision after consulting with industry constituents including exhibitors and retailers. In the end, the global nature of our event, combined with the worldwide concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak and ongoing travel restrictions make it impossible for us to hold The Inspired Home Show next week.”
The Rosemont-based association spent the last month planning precautionary measures like offering pocket-sized bottles of hand sanitizer to attendees and warning those coming from China they may be denied entry into the U.S. The trade group said it will determine the financial impact on the industry and the association. The group will provide more information about refunds to exhibitors at a later time, spokeswoman Debbie Teschke said.
Last month, the Inspired Home show scrapped one of its five expos because of travel limitations tied to the viral outbreak, known as COVID-19. After consulting with Chinese organizers and exhibitors, the association decided not to include an International Sourcing Expo, where Chinese companies showcase various products like dishes, flatware and other household products.
PittCon, an annual convention for laboratory sciences, is being held at McCormick Place this week through Thursday. Attendance at the event is lower due to coronavirus travel restrictions from certain countries, said Rocco Pacella, head of marketing for PittCon. Nearly a fifth of participants travel from abroad, with the biggest international contingent from China.
Organizers had long conversations about whether to move forward with the conference for fear it would be disrespectful to those who couldn’t attend, but “we found they were completely fine with it,” Pacella said. Chinese lecturers who were scheduled to present at the conference have given permission to U.S. colleagues to deliver their presentations for them.
Still, program attendance has dipped and the absence of key lecturers is disappointing to those who rely on the event to exchange ideas, Pacella said.
“To not have them here is certainly affecting us in more ways than just attendance numbers,” Pacella said. The convention usually draws 10,000 to 12,000 people, he said. Organizers are still determining turnout for this year.
Chicago was counting on a big convention year to boost tourism. There are 38 citywide conventions scheduled this year and expected to draw nearly 1.26 million attendees, a projected 10% increase over last year, according to David Whitaker, president and CEO of Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism arm.
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“Obviously, there’s a lot of questions about coronavirus,” Whitaker said Monday before the home show cancellation.
Nine major conventions are scheduled in the next 90 days, representing about 180,000 attendees, Whitaker said. The loss of the Inspired Home Show reduces that total by nearly a third. Choose Chicago estimated the economic impact of those shows at $460 million, including the cancelled home show.
Anywhere from 2% to 15% of those attending the next nine conventions are coming from outside the U.S., adding a degree of “uncertainty,” Whitaker said.
Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels said Monday it had withdrawn its 2020 financial outlook and earnings as temporary travel restrictions implemented by countries and companies affect the hotel chain.
In recent years, several major conventions have been on a biennial cycle, making even years stronger than odd. Most notable is the International Manufacturing Technology Show, the city’s largest trade show, which in 2018 brought more than 129,000 attendees to Chicago. This year’s show is scheduled for September.
“Any group that is heavily dependent on international travel may be vulnerable,” Whitaker said. “We’re just going to have to continue to monitor it.”
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