Global Pet Expo Retrieves a Successful Face-to-Face Edition

June 8, 2022

The pet industry’s premier trade show and conference for pet retailers, product manufacturers, importers and thought leaders recently converged in Orlando, Fla., to celebrate a triumphant return to live and in-person events. Hosted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) and Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA), the 18th annual Global Pet Expo took over the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) March 23-25, attracting more than 5,400 buyers, 722 exhibitors and a fair share of adorable cats and dogs. 

According to show officials, 52% of buyers were first-time attendees and almost all registered buyers showed up at the event. Multi-unit retailer pet boutiques comprised the show’s largest registration group, alongside an increase in mass-market variety retailers, and a strong return in international buyer attendance was also prevalent, with a 49% uptick in U.K. buyers compared to 2020. 

Although the 2022 edition of Global Pet Expo didn’t quite match its pre-pandemic numbers, its participation levels weren’t too far offin 2020, the show was attended by more than 6,000 buyers and more than 1,000 exhibitors spanning 3,541 booths.

“Many trade shows held recently have reported significant decreases in attendance following the COVID-19 pandemic, some as much as 40%,” said Celeste Powers, president of PIDA. “We are extremely proud to announce that Global Pet Expo only saw a decrease closer to 20%, with nearly 90% of registered buyers attending the event. We are already looking forward to Global Pet Expo 2023 and anticipate next year to be an even larger event!” 

An Upgraded Showfloor and Conference Experience

During the show, attendees took full advantage of myriad opportunities to discover new products and trends, learn from industry experts, network with peers and garner tools and ideas to continue building their businesses.

Showcasing a comprehensive glimpse into the future of the pet industry, the event’s massive showfloor featured 2,695 expo booths filled with the latest and greatest innovations in pet products spanning 269,500 square feet of exhibition space. Many exhibitors made their debut at this year’s event, according to show officials. 

New products and designs were also in abundance at this year’s New Products Showcase, which received more than 700 new product submissions. Participants were able to cast their votes for New Products Showcase awards in the official Global Pet Expo show app, with winners announced during the show’s ever-popular “Best in Show” awards presentation.  

Meanwhile, the event’s educational programming, the recently rebranded Global Learning Series, delivered more than 40 sessions designed to provide actionable takeaways for business growth and success in the current business climate. Led by experienced speakers and subject matter experts, the program offered inclusive learning pathways for retailers and buyers, exhibitors and attendees on a wide variety of topics, including the latest market research from Packaged Facts, Euromonitor International, NielsenIQ and APPA.  

Sessions also touched on retailer success, marketing, social media trends and practices, e-commerce tips and 15-minute, TED Talk-like “Paws2Learn” mini-sessions held in the New Product Showcase area. 

The post-pandemic return of Global Pet Expo didn’t come without several strategic changes designed to improve the show experience for all participants, including moving it to the OCCC’s North/South Concourse after calling the West building home for the last 12 years. 

“The move presented us with a unique opportunity to refresh and present many new features and enhancements designed with attendees in mind,” said Bob Merar, interim APPA CEO.

These included: 

  • Self-service registration kiosks, where attendees could scan their confirmation and receive their badge in seconds. Since the kiosks took less space, registration lines were eliminated outside peak hours.
  • New digital exhibitor search and show planning tools with Map Your Show 
  • New and expanded mobile app capabilities with in-app voting for the “Best in Show” awards
  • Free wi-fi in the exhibit hall
  • Enhanced education sessions through the Global Learning Series 

“Additional benefits of revamping the new location’s floorplan included the unique opportunity to reposition the New Products Showcase to be more accessible than ever before, as it had main-aisle visibility and access, as well as a new VIP/buyers lounge,” Merar added.

He continued, “We were extremely pleased by the turnout for this year’s event. Buyer attendance from Florida was down compared to 2020 but on par with the overall final event attendance. We predicted many attendees would wait until the last minute to make a decision about whether to attend, which turned out to be the case. We had a total of 6,738 buyer registrations with 1,170 buyers completing theirs the week prior to the show, a Global Pet Expo record for a week-long registration run.” 

In early March, Global Pet Expo also adjusted its COVID-19 precautionary measures. Based on current trends and regulatory guidance, the show announced it would make face masks optional for all show attendees and that proof of vaccination would not be required to attend. 

“[Show] organizers began working with Epistemix, a computational modeling software company that develops simulations to model the spread of diseases and inform policy, in December 2021 to develop appropriate mitigation strategies to improve and ensure the safety of all participants at Global Pet Expo,” Merar explained. “In February, Epistemix released updated data pertaining to the risk of COVID-19 transmission during Global Pet Expo, [and] the risk was projected at a rate of less than 0.1% of all attendees.” 

He added, “Epistemix data has proven to be 95% accurate when forecasting for past events.”

The show also retained its successful digital component, Global Pet Expo Digital Access, the highly popular all-virtual trade show experience created in 2021 to temporarily replace the in-person event that had to be canceled due to the pandemic.  

Offered this year as an exclusive, complimentary online event for exhibitors and registered buyers during a three-day follow-up event in late April, the platform provided participants with more chances to reconnect, access on-demand education, visit virtual booths and share information about pet products and trends. 

Global Pet Expo 2023 will return to the OCCC March 22-24.  


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.