Golf Industry Show to be virtual in 2021

The GCSAA is the first of the golf industry’s big shows to throw in the towel on a live event in Winter 2021

The GCSAA is the first of the golf industry’s big shows to throw in the towel on a live event in Winter 2021. Instead of hosting the conference in Las Vegas in February, it will host a virtual event.

“As we monitored the national landscape and sought input from our members and exhibitors, it was clear that a virtual event would offer the safest and best way to provide a quality GIS experience,” said GCSAA President John R. Fulling Jr., CGCS. “We are confident our attendees will embrace this interactive, cutting-edge virtual platform. In addition, we believe the virtual event will offer opportunities for those who may have not been able to attend in-person shows due to travel costs or time away from work. It is a unique situation where we have the ability to connect more industry professionals from all corners of the world than ever before.”

The Golf Industry Show has struggled in recent years with dropping attendance. The last time the show was held in Las Vegas it attracted 14,700 attendees. But that was in 2012. Attendance has been dropping since 2008, when comparing the same locations. For example, Orlando, its best location for attendance, had 25,737 attendees in 2008, 14,781 in 2011, 14,147 in 2014, 13,600 in 2017 and less than 12,000 in 2020. 

Las Vegas was replacing San Antonio, which only had 11,700 attendees in 2018, its lowest point since 1986, and long before the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and the National Golf Course Owners Association merged together to form the annual trade show.

The NGCOA, of course, moved its annual meeting this past January to be in conjunction with the PGA Show. While the NGCOA attracts only 500 attendees, it was still another blow to the GIS.  

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and the National Golf Course Owners Association merged together to form the combined trade show in 2005, along with the National Golf Foundation, the Golf Course Builders Association, the American Society of Golf Course Architects and the United States Golf Association as participating partners. The Club Managers Association of America joined in 2006, helping to boost the number of exhibitors to an all-time high of 981 in 2007. 

But the concept never seemed to work for the CMAA, which caters to general managers at private clubs, some of whom are not at facilities with golf. The CMAA exhibitors seemed lost among the much larger turf show. The relationship between the two organizations was further strained when the Golf Industry Show announced in 2009 that it would move its 2012 show to Las Vegas, in order to save on expenses.

The CMAA felt blindsided by the move and announced that the 2010 show would be its last as a GIS partner. Attendance dropped from 16,156 in 2010 to 14,781 in 2011. The CMAA had been attracting 3,000 to its annual meeting. It has grown since then.   

The GCSAA and its remaining presenting partners, the Golf Course Builders Association of America (GCBAA) and the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA), will offer a virtual experience that will include education and virtual booths. 

The theme of the 2021 GIS is “Your space. Your pace. All in one place.” It will be presented on a virtual platform that is interactive, visually engaging and easy to use. The lineup will include concurrent education sessions, networking, special events and a virtual trade show.

The PGA Merchandise Show plans to move forward with its live event on Jan. 26-29th in Orlando. It previously cancelled its live fall event in Las Vegas, and replaced it with a series of virtual events. But the fall show is much smaller than the annual show in Orlando, and has struggled to attract a large following.

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