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Designing the perfect travel trade show

As I mentioned last week, there is a lot to be learned at a trade show. I have recently returned from the Home Based Travel Agent Forum in Atlantic City and as trade shows go, it was spot on and very beneficial. But after 15 plus years of attending trade shows in general, I realized that the general message is the same and trade shows have not really evolved. 

The suppliers

The suppliers are there for a single purpose–well two. First to sell their product to the travel agents; and second, to foot part of the bill for part of putting on the show. But the message suppliers have put forth over the last decade and a half has not changed.

  • Here are our latest amenity and cool things
  • We love agents
  • Sell our stuff

After all, that is their job—to sell their products. We can debate the usefulness of any of the amenities and how much love (or commission) they throw our way, but the bottom line for agents is that want us to sell their stuff in any way possible with or without us.  Pretty simple. Pretty consistent. The message has not changed in decades, nor is it like to in the future.

But the other stuff

I will give them credit, the non-supplier portions of the shows have developed vastly over the years. Today there are seminars on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media tools. We have seen technology develop and seminars offered to help us develop good content, to start up and manage a facebook page, and more. But what I find missing from most, is the “hands-on, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work” information. The information presented in many of the seminars is available for free if you take the time to look. Facebook and Twitter will tell you how to create the pages and profiles. They will tell you the best practices. But they don’t know the travel industry. What I would like to see is not how to make the page, but how to make it grown and how to engage your audience. I want to see tips and tricks that bring business in the door, flood your inbox, or make the phone ring. After all, none of us are in business to not make any money. How do you turn lookers into buyers?

As the travel industry becomes more and more competitive, we need these tools to succeed. We have done a good job so far, but we can’t rest on our laurels. Yesterday, we were competing with the agency down the street and any other business looking for disposable income. Today, we are competing against those same agencies and businesses; but also the Internet, the hobbyist agents (I’m talking to you YTB), the DIY crowd, and even our own suppliers.  While the pie is indeed large, we need to make sure we have the tools to carve an adequate slice for ourselves.

If you could design the perfect trade show or conference, what would it include? How long would it last? Where would it be? Who would speak? Do we keep industry standard speakers, or do we shake it up a little? What hands-on technology do you want to see? What will help you take your agency to the top? Let me know in the comments.

 

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