Trade Show Season Part 1: How To Choose | TravelResearchOnline


Trade Show Season Part 1: How To Choose

Susan SchafferWe’re coming up on that time of year – when we dig out from under wave season, venture out into the sunlight, and find ourselves facing another daunting list of upcoming trade shows. They include cruise3sixty, the HBTA Forums (this year in Las Vegas and Tampa Bay), the Romance Travel Forum, Cruise World, the Global Travel Marketplace (this year in Tucson and Ft Lauderdale), Travel Industry Exchange, The Luxury Travel Expo, and the list goes on. We simply cannot attend them all, assuming we want time left to actually fulfill our clients’ travel dreams. So how do you choose?

The Show’s Niche

Not all trade shows and conferences are made alike. The first step is to eliminate shows that do not align with your business focus. A honeymoon and destination specialist would benefit from attending The Romance Forum, more so than attending a cruise-focused trade show. You will need to do some research into the shows you are considering to find out what they focus on, what types of educational sessions they offer, and what suppliers typically attend. Reach out to other travel consultants, find out what shows they have attended in the past, and get their feedback.

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Location, Location, Location

Once you have eliminated the shows that don’t fit you niche, take into consideration where the remaining shows are located. Which ones are closer to you, or easier for you to travel to? As an example, the Home Based Travel Agent (HBTA) Forum takes place twice a year; this year it is in Las Vegas and Tampa Bay. The Las Vegas show (June 22-24) might be easier and more convenient for travel agents in California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, etc. whereas the Tampa Bay show (Oct 28-30) would be more convenient for agents to attend from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas, etc. Take into consideration what your travel costs will be (can you drive? Do you have to fly?) to attend any of the shows that made the first cut on your list.

It’s All in the Timing

If location doesn’t narrow down your list sufficiently, consider the dates of the shows and how they fit into your calendar. The cruise-focused CLIA show cruise3sixty alternates every other year between Vancouver (in June) and Ft Lauderdale (in March or April). CruiseWorld tends to be a Fall cruise-focused show. If one time of year works better for you, take that into consideration when evaluating the shows you want to attend.

Where’s the Meat

Other criteria to consider would be the “meat” of the shows; the educational sessions, general sessions and trade show participants. Evaluate the show agendas. What educational sessions are being offered? Who are the presenters? Who are the star speakers during the general sessions? Are these speakers that you want to hear? Do the presentation topics resonate with you?   What suppliers will participate in the trade show floor? How much time is scheduled for the trade show floor; is it sufficient time to meet all of the suppliers you want to target? Who are the key suppliers that you want to meet with? Will they be present at the shows you are considering? If the session topics, keynote speakers, and trade show participants don’t meet your needs, don’t waste your time attending the show.

Finally, keep in mind that most shows occur every year (with some available twice a year). If you can’t make a particular show this year that interests you, there is always next year.

Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel ( located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations ( she focuses on travel for 18 to 23 year olds. Susan can be reached by email at or by phone at (888) 221-1209.

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