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CES 2023 Could Attract 100,000 In-Person Attendees

The Consumer Technology Association says the January convention will be the largest tech event since the pandemic began.

the CES logo hangs from a trade show ceiling
Sarah Tew/CNET

This story is part of CES, where CNET covers the latest news on the most incredible tech coming soon.

Huge trade shows are back, according to the industry group behind CES. The Consumer Technology Association projects the 2023 version of CES to once again draw thousands of people when it kicks off on Jan. 5 in Las Vegas. "We are optimistic we can hit our attendance goal of 100,000, which would make it the largest independently audited post-pandemic tech event," Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA, said in a statement.

The last time CES broke a six-figure attendance was in January 2020, when it drew 171,000 people. Due to the pandemic, the show was entirely virtual in 2021. The last version of the CES, held in January 2022 amid a nationwide surge of the omicron COVID variant, drew only 44,000 attendees and was cut short by a day.

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CES is the tech industry's largest in-person annual trade event, gathering thousands of companies inside the 2.5 million square-foot Las Vegas Convention Center as well as other venues across Vegas. News, product announcements and trends from the show help set the agenda for the year in technology and provide shoppers a glimpse of innovations coming down the pike. In addition to the usual parade of new TVs, laptops and robots, themes at CES 2023 include electric and self-driving cars, digital health care, sustainability and the metaverse.

In an interview with CNET, Shapiro was bullish on the prospects for in-person attendance at CES 2023. "One thing that's clear around the world, except perhaps in China right now, is that events are back," he said. "Airplanes are full. I have flown a lot in the last year, and I have yet to be on a flight that isn't almost full."

Last year numerous major companies, including Amazon, AMD, Google and Microsoft either canceled or modified their in-person plans. All are currently listed, along with 26 other large companies, as featured exhibitors for CES 2023. "I'd say almost all the majors are back," Shapiro said. 

CES 2022 attendees in masks await keynote

Due to a nationwide surge in COVID cases, CES 2022 was sparsely attended in-person. This image was captured before the start of a keynote address.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

The CTA is encouraging attendees to take familiar precautions attending the show, such as getting a flu shot and a COVID vaccine and booster, as well as self-testing at home prior to arriving in Vegas. Once on-site, masks will be encouraged but not required on the show floor, and self-tests will be available. Shapiro cited additional precautions as well, including widening aisles and keeping some convention center doors open.

As the pandemic ebbs and most people's lives return to normal, many companies are back to holding in-person press events to announce new products. Apple's launch of the iPhone 14 last month, for example, was held in-person as a proper live event for the first time since 2019. Samsung Unpacked in August was also held in-person again following an all-virtual event in 2021.

None of those events are as large or as international as CES, however. The CTA expects one-third of CES 2023 attendees to travel to Vegas from outside the US. If recent history is any indication there could be another surge in COVID cases this winter. The CTA says it will monitor the situation closely, but didn't point to a specific contingency plan if cases spike. 

"We recognize that there are things we don't control," Shapiro said. "We'll do what's in the best interest of the health and safety of the people attending the show. There is no plan on the table to go from four days to three days at this point."

CNET also plans to attend CES 2023 in person. The show runs from Jan. 5 through Jan. 8, 2023.

Correction, Oct. 6: CES 2022 was attended by 44,000 people and the show is held in multiple venues in Las Vegas.