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  • Trade Show Industry Bouncing back, but Comback Varies

    Trade show industry bouncing back, but comeback varies

    The trade show industry is recovering from the recent recession with attendance at the highest levels since 2008, giving a boost to the Colorado Springs tourism market, the president of a trade group for the exhibitions and events industry says.

    Steven Hacker, president of the Dallas-based International Association of Exhibitions and Events, was in Colorado Springs last month for a meeting of the Convention Industry Council, a consortium of 32 trade groups in the convention, exhibition and meetings industry that he heads as its volunteer chairman, and a conference hosted by the American Society of Association Executives. He discussed trade show and convention industry trends and where the Springs fits into the industry during an interview.

    Hacker has more than tripled membership in the IAEE to more than 9,000 in 46 countries; the membership includes organizations, individuals and vendors who organize, conduct and support trade shows, exhibitions, meetings and events at large convention halls and other venues. The group was started in 1928 as the National Association of Exhibition Managers and now represents organizers who put on the world’s largest trade shows and exhibitions (those spread over 30,000 square feet or more) after merging in 2006 with the Center for Exhibition Industry Research.

    Hacker previously had spent 17 years as president of the Professional Insurance Agents of Texas and serves as a director of the Travel Industry Association. He has received a variety of awards, including the “Industry Leader of the Year” from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas in 2005.

    Question: Is the trade show and exhibition industry recovering?

    Answer: Our industry is a mirror of all of the industries it serves. Trade shows for the construction industry are doing very poorly. The National Automobile Dealers Association trade show is about half the size it was in 2007 because the number of dealers has been reduced by half. But the wind energy industry is only 3 years old and is already going gangbusters — 20,000 attended the industry’s trade show last August in Dallas. My organization measures metrics across 14 industry sectors and they show that sports, entertainment and travel are doing very well, while government services is not doing well because local governments are reducing services due to budget problems. There are just over 10,000 trade shows per year and if you take all of the metrics for the entire industry, we have recaptured all of the business lost in 2008 and have grown twice as fast as the overall economy in each of the past six quarters.

    Q: Are jobs coming back in the exhibition and meetings industry?

    A: Hotels are doing well and adding staff. The revenue per available room increased substantially last year for the first time in five years. Average room rates are increasing, but different segments of the industry are performing better than others. Five-star resorts like The Broadmoor are doing well because their business is more resistant to problems in the economy, and limited-service hotels have seen improvements in bookings because they deliver a lot of value for the price. Full-service hotels are not doing well because a room that sold for $180 a night before the recession sells for $140 a night now.

    Q: How well is Colorado Springs positioned in the trade show and exhibitions market?

    A: Colorado Springs occupies a pretty stable niche in the market. It hasn’t overbuilt — there isn’t an excess inventory of 20,000 rooms like you see in some markets. Colorado Springs doesn’t have the kinds of things that set a destination up for difficulty — Las Vegas, for example, has 160,000 first-class rooms and you really have to be on top of your game to fill 80 or 90 percent of them. For the last couple of years, hotel occupancy rates have hovered around 60 to 70 percent. Businesses aren’t doing as many conferences as they had in the past, but the relative stability of the Colorado Springs market has made it more resilient to threats like higher gas prices and airfares.

    Q: What is the reputation of Colorado Springs in the trade show and meetings market?

    A: Colorado Springs is not a big destination for our industry, but does have some large events like the National Space Symposium. It is a third-tier destination. More people want to attend events in first-tier cities like Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, Orlando, San Diego and San Francisco. To be successful in this market, you have to have the dates and space available to host these events. If I am planning an event that requires 200,000 square feet of space, that immediately eliminates 400 cities. Planners tend to look at cities where there is a concentration of buyers and exhibitors, such as Los Angeles or New York.

    Q: Does Colorado Springs need a larger venue for trade shows, conventions and meetings?

    A: My first impression is that the city has not been hampered by a lack of a large venue. If that were the case, Broadmoor Hall (the city’s largest convention and exhibition venue) would be filled all of the time and it would have been expanded by now. Transportation is an issue for conventions and exhibitions in Colorado Springs because everyone has to make a connection on a plane to get there. That puts second- and third-tier cities at a disadvantage. Does a community like Colorado Springs need to build that kind of meeting infrastructure? Unless the need is clear, it sounds like the local facilities are adequate for local meetings. People talk about the need for convention centers, but if you look at the Chinese market you will see that nearly all of the 161 cities with a population of more than 1 million has a convention center because they have been built as a matter of civic pride. In many cases, you will see centers that are less than 2 years old and have never been occupied and are not well maintained.

    Q: How can Colorado Springs become more of a destination for trade shows and meetings?

    A: To be more attractive as a destination, Colorado Springs needs to improve its air service. While it is only a 75-minute drive from Denver International Airport, it might as well be three hours because of the expense and time involved in getting a rental car or catching a connecting flight. You need to figure out where pockets of potential tourists are and stitch together new service; that might require a subsidy initially or a strategic plan to address where the market will be in 25 years. With the new service coming from Frontier (nonstop flights to Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle), you have to make sure you fill those planes and maximize this opportunity. You have to look at the drivers of the economy and tourism in those cities and find ways to attract people from those cities here. How many of them might want a tour of the Air Force Academy, Garden of the Gods or Pikes Peak? There are also 15 million Chinese tourists who plan to travel internationally during the next five years. What can be done to attract them? They represent a great opportunity.

    Questions and answers are edited for clarity and brevity.
    Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234 Twitter @wayneheilman
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    Source link: http://gazette.com/trade-show-industry-bouncing-back-but-comeback-varies/article/136819#uHQjBbZ11CF0LTbQ.99

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