Adventure travel trade shows lift off - SNEWS

Adventure travel trade shows lift off

While fewer folks are globe-trotting these days, competition is increasing for the producers of adventure travel trade shows.

While fewer folks are globe-trotting these days, competition is increasing for the producers of adventure travel trade shows.

In October, the VNU Sports Group (owner and operator of Outdoor Retailer and other shows) launched the Travel and Adventure Expo and Conference, which will debut in Miami, Fla., Oct.1-3, 2004. A purely trade event, the Travel and Adventure Expo expects to have about 300 exhibitors and 2,000 attendees.

On Jan. 9, 2004, another new show, Adventures in Travel Expo, will debut in New York City. Its sponsors include the New York Post, Backpacker Magazine and National Geographic Adventure magazine. The first day of the show is open for the trade, while the public can attend Jan. 10-11. Jim Cohen, executive director for Adventures in Travel Expo, told SNEWS® that the entire show will draw about 15,000 attendees, including 3,000 for the trade-only day. (About 1,500 were pre-registered as of Dec. 15.) He adds that the show will likely include more trade-only days in future years.

In February, Outside Magazine and the Chicago Tribune will once again host the World Congress on Adventure and Eco Tourism, Feb. 18-20 in Chicago for the trade, and the Outside Travel Expo Feb. 20-22 for the public.

While consumer adventure travel shows have existed for years, no trade-only show has emerged to become the center of the adventure travel universe. In the adventure travel market, there is no equivalent to Outdoor Retailer or the SIA snowsports show, but this could change.

"As the travel market has changed, niche trade events have become more valuable," said Regina Franklin, trade show director of the Travel and Adventure Expo and Conference. "For many years, travel agents made plenty of money booking airline tickets and hotel rooms for basic trips. With the elimination of commissions for airline ticketing and the rise of Internet travel sites, agents need to find a special niche that requires their skills so they can be an asset to customers." A rising number of travel agents hope adventure travel will be their niche.

Overall, the Travel and Adventure Expo is designed to introduce the travel market to the outdoor industry and vice versa. Exhibitors at the show will include destinations, resorts, tour operators and tourist boards. Attendees will be travel agencies, independent travel agents, adventure travel outfitters and specialty outdoor retailers.

"Traditionally, the travel market and the outdoor market have been so separate in terms of how they approach their businesses," Franklin said. "I was at a luxury travel expo a week ago, and one session discussed adventure travel. But the travel agents in that community were not even aware that they could partner with a retail store that sold bikes to get customers for bike trips."

One of the more interesting questions is how retailers will fit into the adventure travel mix. Franklin expects that many retailers will at first view the show with a skeptical eye, but she spent 15 years in the SCUBA market where retailers have successful travel components. "SCUBA retailers have made a good bit of money selling travel or partnering with those that do," she said.

Franklin said she hopes that the VNU Sports Group will be an asset in bringing retailers to the show. "That's where the strength of the VNU Sports Group comes in, because we have a reputation of understanding these markets and have relationships with those retail channels," she said.

The Travel and Adventure Expo is also tapping into the expertise of the Adventure Travel Society, which helped develop programming for the show. Each morning will include seminars and training sessions on overall market trends, as well as advice on the nuts and bolts of business operations. The Adventure Travel Society may also help develop research on adventure travel psychographics.

Jerry Mallett of the Adventure Travel Society told SNEWS that the adventure travel market is not only hungry for information, but also hungry for this type of trade-only event. "It's extremely timely," said Mallett. "I get calls from countries asking about trade shows, because consumer shows don't give them the return on investment they want."

SNEWS View: When the economy recovers, the adventure travel market is expected to come roaring back, and we think a trade-only adventure travel show will have a good chance for success. The race is about to begin, and at least three horses are standing at the gate. The Chicago show has prominent backers and a few years of experience, while the New York show boasts strong sponsors, as well. But we'd place our money on the VNU show, which will likely be the strongest horse in the race. Because VNU specializes in trade shows, it will simply have the most muscle and resources to not only produce a high-quality show, but also market the event to a broad spectrum of companies. However, we think The Travel and Adventure Expo will find it difficult to attract outdoor specialty dealers. Many smaller dealers skipped national trade shows this year due to financial constraints. As far as spending goes, they are in a holding pattern, and an adventure travel show may only draw the larger specialty chains. One thing's for sure: the SNEWS crew will keep an eye on the situation, and we're not about to pass up a trip to Miami, so we'll be on the scene in October with a full report.



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