CHICAGO (WLS) -- Two big conventions announced Monday they will cancel events this year at McCormick Place. Since the beginning of the pandemic - more than 200 shows have pulled out.
Despite improving case counts, the financial impact of the pandemic is far from over.
The National Restaurant Association Show was supposed to be the first event at McCormick Place in a year. It's now been rescheduled for spring of 2022.
And the Inspired Home Show was set for this August, but for the second straight year, the organization has dropped its convention plans.
"It was incredibly emotional for all of the staff," said Leana Salamah, vice president of the International Housewares Association. "This is really the core of what we do every year, all year. And to have it canceled two years in a row is really heartbreaking for a lot of us."
Convention season in Chicago isn't making quite the comeback industry leaders had hoped for.
"Over half of the business in Chicago actually comes from the convention business," hospitality consultant Ted Mandigo said.
The National Restaurant Association announced its May convention won't return to McCormick Place until 2022. And on Monday, the Inspired Home Show said with COVID-19 continuing to linger, an August convention just isn't possible.
"We're taking a look six months out into trying to put on an August show that has traditionally attracted 50,000 people from 130 countries and it just doesn't seem feasible at this point with all the ongoing restrictions," Salamah said.
With 214 conventions canceled since March of 2020, the financial hit to Chicago is staggering: $2.9 billion. Though convention organizers say about two-thirds of previous events do plan to return post-pandemic.
"We will see conventions in the 3rd quarter and 4th quarter," Mandigo said.
One of the events that is still working to return this year is the Chicago Auto Show. Organizers said they're working with the city and state to figure out how and when to do it safely.
Full statement from McCormick Place:
McCormick Place has taken every possible step and is prepared to reopen when the time is right. Our first priority has, and will always continue to be, public health. We are committed to following the guidance of public health officials as we move toward reopening, from upgrades to HVAC systems, to processes and procedures, and the timing of resumption of activities. In fact, we've even created a website (www.HealthyMeetingsChicago.com) that illustrates what an attendee can expect when we re-open.
We understand and appreciate the challenges our customers face with the uncertainty surrounding COVID. We've communicated with our public health partners that the planning and execution of a trade show requires significant lead time and are doing everything we can to work with our customers during this time. While August feels like it is a long way away, for organizers of events like this, August is around the corner. The logistics behind an event require months of planning, and especially an event like this with a large international audience, they need to allow for time for shipping, travel, etc.