Like every industry, trade shows have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, with programming moved online or canceled entirely.
The Cleveland Auto Show is bouncing back after a terminated Huntington Convention Center event and a planned February return to the recently reopened I-X Center. Auto show chairman Joey Huang is happy to kick off the spring car-sales season at the auto show’s traditional home, noting the venue’s massive indoor space and prime parking availability.
“In Cleveland, the No. 1 registration month of the year is always March,” said Huang, also owner of the Great Lakes Auto Network. “People are stir crazy and ready for the sun, and this is just a big event for Northeast Ohio.”
Long a source of lead-generating new business, trade shows are determining how quickly the industry can return to pre-pandemic levels. With business travel not expected to fully recover until 2024, executives are beginning to understand the hit remote networking and virtual trade shows will register on future in-person attendance. Amid finding innovative ways of getting business done, planners must also ask themselves how and when they can again gather en masse.
The 2022 Cleveland Auto Show, taking place at the I-X Center from Feb. 25 through March 6, will include an array of new vehicles alongside old favorites such as Millionaire’s Row, Ride N’ Drive and the Classic Car Show. Whether attendance matches previous happenings is another question, although Huang is confident that a public craving normalcy will return in large numbers.
However, the proliferation of coronavirus variants, such as the rapidly spreading Omicron, means keeping a close watch on case numbers and hospitalizations. Any auto show masking and vaccination requirements will hinge on CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines as the event draws near.
Vehicle inventory shortages and fewer patrons visiting dealerships have put additional emphasis on the 2022 auto show, noted Huang.
“Test-driving a car these days is hard, because we don’t have them in stock,” Huang said. “Customers are buying cars without even trying them, so this event will be their chance. Giving people the ability to test vehicles is one reason I think the show will be so big.”