The first Chicago trade show to cancel its 2020 event because of COVID-19 has now called off its 2021 gathering, nixing one of McCormick Place's biggest annual events for the second straight year.
The Rosemont, Ill.-based International Housewares Association announced March 1 it won't hold the Inspired Home Show in early August, citing safety concerns and the still uncertain future of large gatherings during the pandemic. The four-day event, normally held in March at McCormick, was slated for Aug. 7-10 this year in hopes the delay would buy enough time for big events to resume. But with months of logistical planning needed to pull off the event and little clarity about the future of international travel or when Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker will lift a statewide 50-person cap on indoor gatherings for events, IHA chose to cancel.
"Over the last year, we have been closely watching the status of large events from a health and public safety perspective, and have consistently sought feedback from our industry about how travel restrictions and mass gathering bans have impacted their normal operations," IHA President Derek Miller said in a statement. "With the health and safety of our exhibitors and attendees top of mind, we realized that it is infeasible for The Inspired Home Show to proceed in August of 2021."
The decision highlights the continuing carnage the pandemic has inflicted on the convention and trade show business — one of the Illinois' biggest economic engines — and the potential for other major 2021 events getting the ax soon despite the vaccine distribution ramping up.
COVID-19 has now canceled 214 events at McCormick Place over the past year that would have generated nearly $2.9 billion in local economic impact, according to the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the agency that owns and operates the convention center. The fallout has been especially painful for hotel owners, which rely on big events to squeeze available inventory downtown so they can charge higher room rates during peak travel months. MPEA estimates visitors for events canceled to date by COVID would have generated more than 2 million nightly hotel room stays.
The Inspired Home Show is one of the largest annual events at the convention center with a normal audience of nearly 60,000 visitors, which generates about 47,000 hotel room nights, according to MPEA.
"Our first priority has, and will always continue to be, public health," MPEA spokeswoman Cynthia McCafferty said in a statement, noting the agency is "committed to following the guidance of public health officials as we move toward reopening."