CES, the World's Largest Trade Show, Is Too Big for Vegas

Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

People attend the CES Unveiled press event ahead of the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 4, 2015. Close

People attend the CES Unveiled press event ahead of the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show... Read More

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Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

People attend the CES Unveiled press event ahead of the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 4, 2015.

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has a problem that many events would love to have: It's become too big. And it doesn't want to get any bigger.

With as many as 160,000 visitors to CES—the world's largest annual trade show—the Nevada city's sprawling hotels are stretched to the limit. Last January's gathering of gadget-loving geeks somehow packed in a full 10,000 more people than Las Vegas has rooms for them to sleep in.

The Consumer Electronics Association, the folks who put on the conference and expo, says CES 2015 will have the equivalent of 35 football fields, or about 2 miles of floor space, filled with phones, televisions, smartwatches, washing machines and throngs of people trying to see it all. "In order to enhance the experience for our attendees, we aim to keep attendance between 150,000 and 160,000 so that everyone can get where they need to go," says CEA Vice President Karen Chupka.

Partly as a response to that, the CEA is holding its first show in China this year, according to Chupka. International CES Asia will take place in Shanghai in May, which will make it logistically easier for those in China, many of whom have struggled to book flights and get visas to attend the Vegas show.

While the world's most populous nation has rocketed up the ranks in terms of its importance to the industry—it has the world's largest smartphone and PC markets—Chinese attendance at CES has increased only modestly. Last year, 7 percent of attendees were from Greater China, up from 4.7 in 2010.

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