Cruise3Sixty in Ft Lauderdale this week kicks off 2012’s Trade Show Season. The decision to attend a particular trade show or conference is a quandary for all involved. Suppliers try to calculate the cost/benefit in terms of the number of agents who will attend, the costs of supporting the show and the intangible costs of not attending – being invisible to the agency community.
For travel agents, the calculus is equally daunting. Beyond the cost of air and hotel, there is the time out of office and the lost business opportunities in a busy time of the year. The quality of the show’s presentations and offerings can vary widely. In the best of circumstances the show promoter delivers a wide array of sales and marketing training designed to grow the travel practices of attendees. At great trade shows, agent involvement and peer-to-peer sharing has replaced the hour long supplier panel infomercials that in years past posed as training. In the worst of circumstances, the promoter simply goes through the motions, offering up the same anemic panels and breakout sessions show after show.
So choose wisely.
Mustering the capital resources and the time to attend a trade show so is surely no light matter. A travel agency’s investment is often significant. Yet, the opportunities afforded by a travel trade show are considerable. Most importantly, travel agents can delve deeply into the tenor of the companies they select for their business partners. There are few venues that provide the opportunity for face-to-face evaluations of travel suppliers like a trade show especially considering the chance to compare notes on suppliers with other agents. Indeed, trade shows afford an almost unique opportunity to learn about new product.
The face-to-face experiences inherent in a trade show are very valuable to a professional travel counselor. Strong supplier relationships are an important component of a thriving travel practice, and there is no substitute for meeting a supplier representative in person to take the measure of his or her company. But there is also the additional benefit of interaction with your peers. Those travel agents who regularly participate in on-line professional communities have the opportunity to meet each other in the flesh at a trade show. Old friendships can be renewed and strengthened , new ideas compared and tested.
Educational seminars and discussion panels at trade shows can be very important, especially when the promoter takes seriously the needs of their agency constituency. The topics of discussion at each of the fall line-up of trade shows represent strategic insight into the future of the industry. The new perspectives, inspiration and motivation provided by a good trade show or conference are hard to over-estimate.
Links to four important upcoming shows are given below.
By the way – take as many of your office associates with you as possible. The shared information and recollection will greatly benefit your office upon your return. Most travel consultants, whether owners or employees, will come away from any of these trade shows charged with a new perspective and enthusiasm. Take the time to study the exhibitors and the speakers at these trade shows and, then, set your sites on attending at least one of them.
Relationships with suppliers, your peers and the industry’s thought leaders are an important aspect of this business. It is time to begin forming your own, personal relationships with established and emerging suppliers. If you can attend a trade show this year, do so. TRO will be filling its booths this trade show season with its travel-agent writers like Susan Schaefer, Barbara Oliver, John Frenaye, Chuck Flagg, Steve Cousino and Mary Stephan among others. I hope to see you at one of these upcoming shows:
- Home Based Travel Agent Forum – Las Vegas – May 14 – 15, 2012
- Travel Weekly CruiseWorld and Home Based Agent Show – Seattle – June 18-20, 2012
- Home Based Travel Agent Forum – Atlantic City – October 22-24, 2012
- Travel Weekly CruiseWorld and Home Based Agent Show – Ft Lauderdale – November 7 – 10, 2012