The medical sector of the exhibition industry had its slowest growth in at least seven years in 2007 with revenues actually declining, according to the latest CEIR Index, published by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, Dallas.

The medical sector—the largest in the industry, representing 23 percent of all exhibitions—was essentially flat last year, growing just 0.2 percent. By comparison, the overall exhibition industry grew 3.2 percent in 2007.

Since 2000, the first year that exhibition data was tracked by CEIR, the medical sector has had a compound annual growth rate of 3.4 percent. That outpaces the growth of the overall exhibition industry, which has grown 2.5 percent annually.

The annual growth rate is determined by calculating the performance of four key metrics: net square footage of exhibit space, number of exhibitors, attendance, and revenues generated. In the medical sector, attendance was the only metric that showed any appreciable increase, climbing 1.6 percent. Number of exhibitors and net square footage of exhibit space each climbed an anemic 0.4 percent. Revenues dropped 1.7 percent last year after jumping 8.1 percent in 2006. The fourth quarter hit medical exhibitions particularly hard as 75 percent of Q4 events reported revenue declines.

Looking at the performance of medical conventions since 2000, all metrics have increased. Net square footage has had the most growth, climbing 4.6 percent on a compound annual basis since 2000. But over the last three years, growth has been essentially flat. Revenue has climbed an average of 3.3 percent since 2000, despite negative numbers in 2007. The number of exhibitors is up 3.1 percent on average since 2000, but there has been virtually no growth the past two years. Attendance has risen 2.6 percent since 2000, but the 1.6 percent increase in 2007 was the lowest growth rate since 2004.

Despite an economic slowdown, the medical and healthcare exhibition sector should continue to grow in 2008, according to CEIR.