The recent recession has had a lasting effect on the convention and tradeshow industry says Heritage Exposition Services, of St. Louis, Missouri. Heritage is an industry leading, national full service exposition contractor specializing in tradeshow, convention and special event setup and decorating, found at http://www.heritageexpo.com.
“Due to the financial downturn many show managers are now looking for value locations and lower costs for venues, hotels and services,” says Ryan Yemm, Vice President of Heritage. “There are also more options today for event producers in terms of cities, venues and hotels than ever before, making the decision-making process for selecting a site even more complicated for some.”
The very basics of exhibition hall size, overall quality of the facilities and the availability of open dates still carry the most weight when analyzing different options for site selection. However as the number of high quality convention spaces have grown over the years, local hotels have become a key way that cities have tried to differentiate themselves from the competition. And pricing is now more important than ever.
“Show organizers are taking less risk by booking smaller blocks of hotel rooms. This means that hotel availability has become somewhat less of an issue today, as there are fewer rooms being booked in total, so hotel pricing, convenience and quality have moved to the forefront,” says Yemm.
The quality of the local airport in relation to the airfare costs of traveling to and from the destination is also more important than ever today. This can be attributed to capacity cuts by many airlines, which have raised costs, and companies watching travel budgets more closely in the current environment. Participants need to be able to easily and cost-effectively attend shows for their greatest success of course.
Surveys of both show managers and venue managers have found recently heightened frustration on both sides of the industry, as the recession has put pressure on both groups to do more with less. Venue managers report that events are negotiating too strenuously and asking for too much, especially related to space discounts. Many show producers are increasingly concerned about rising costs, date protection, exclusives, and other city, venue or labor policies. They are spending more time scrutinizing locations, negotiating contract terms, and asking more of property managers.
Whether these changes are permanent remains to be seen, but it has affected not only the site selection process but also the way that city governments and local businesses marketing themselves in the more competitive environment. The focus must now be on value, value, value says Yemm. “The days of spending the bulk of their time highlighting specs and a facilities capabilities has given way to a bright spotlight shining on the economics,” says Yemm.
Heritage also predicts that as the U.S. fully recovers from the recession, a shift will occur as event management begins to focus less on the financials and more on an analysis of how their show’s attendee base is changing. Show managers will being studying issues of where their industry’s buyers are based, how far attendees must travel to get to the show, how long they will be staying, and other related concerns relating to their attendees. This change will be critical in how event locations and city governments must market themselves.
“Overall, there has been a shift in how many major shows and expos conduct their search process in relation to cost, and we feel these concerns and changes may last for some time into the future. They certainly make the process of site selection more
complex,” said Yemm.
But these types of meetings, conventions and expositions help build trust and relationships with a target audience more effectively than any other setting, and education and training are that much more effective too. “Live meetings result in a much more effective exchange of ideas, and in the long-run actually end up saving businesses valuable time and money instead of being an increased expenditure,”
And there is good news for current event sites as well. “In stressful times, often exhibitors and attendees want the comfort of knowing the annual show is staying put in the city and venue it’s always been in,” said Yemm. “This keeps the advantage with current sites, a less stressful position to be in when the site selection process begins.”