For the first quarter in more than two years, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research Index showed year-over-year growth, jumping 5.5 percent in the third quarter compared to the same period in 2009.

It had been nine consecutive quarters of decline for the CEIR Index, dating back to the first quarter of 2008— the longest downturn since the index launched in 2000.

“This is most welcome news and tends to confirm some of the anecdotal reports we have reviewed,” said Doug Ducate, CEM, CMP, president and chief executive officer at CEIR in Dallas. “It should be noted that the third quarter is historically the weakest of the four quarters and has had the greatest decline. The test will be to see if this positive trend continues into the fourth quarter of 2010 and then the all-important first quarter of 2011.” Growth in the next two quarters will be a sign of true recovery in the exhibition industry, added Ducate.

The CEIR Index determines exhibition industry performance by measuring four metrics—professional attendance, revenues, net square feet of exhibit space sold, and number of exhibiting companies. Of the four, professional attendance performed the best, climbing 6.6 percent compared to the third quarter of 2009. Revenues increased 5.6 percent, while net square feet of exhibit space sold and number of exhibiting companies both jumped 5.2 percent.