Do we really need to attend travel conferences?

CHIANG RAI, 25 April 2019: I received a call last night from a tour operator who had a couple of days of downtime between a busy schedule attending travel conferences.

Fresh from events in China he was repacking for the trip to Dubai to shake hands with the industry at the Arabian Travel Mart 28 April to 2 May.  It’s a busy life dashing from one mart to the next while juggling the tasks of running a travel firm back home.

Do we ever consider if the constant globetrotting delivers positive outcomes for our companies?

A site that monitors travel and tourism events worldwide claims there are close to 1,000 major tourism conferences worldwide every year. That’s a conservative estimate as only the major events are identified. 

In May alone there are 135 and if you check out Thailand it has around 16 major events lined up until the end of the year all with travel and tourism themes.

But that excludes seminars and smaller forums. When you check out the websites of the UNWTO, PATA and WTTC you might recognise that attending all these so-called “essential events” requires your human resources director to hire a couple of nomadic travel executives.

Looking at just major travel trade events and marts in Asia during May the calendar is already full with must-attend occasions that claim to deliver takeaways that will take our business ventures to the next level.

In just three days the Arabian Travel Mart kicks off an essential travel mart for companies wishing to gain a foothold in the lucrative Middle East travel market.

Dubai is one of the most expensive destinations to stay so ATM represents a major investment for start-up companies looking at the Middle East market.

Then the Pacific Asia Travel Association pitches for our attention with its annual summit due to be hosted in Cebu, Philippines, 9 to 12 May. While there is no travel fair component, the summit’s sale pitch presents a venue for networking with decision makers in the Asia-Pacific travel and hospitality trade.

A couple of days after the summit closes in Cebu, ITB China in Shanghai China beckons, 15 to 17 May, for those who want to snare a share of the China outbound market.

You could slot in a visit to Thailand’s Dive Resort Travel Show in Bangkok, 16 to 19 May, and then tootle up to Chiang Mai for the 10th World Tourism Conference, 25 to 27 May.

Asia’s luxury travel market leaders will meet 27 to 30 May for ILTM Asia Pacific in Singapore for those who still have a budget left to lure high spend travellers.

Finally, the spotlight in the Mekong Region will shine on Dali, China, that will host the Mekong Tourism Forum 28 to 29 May.

For sure I have missed some other must-attend travel events in May, but the truth is that even with 31 days in May travel company marketers need a night home once in while so the kids know they still have two parents.

Perhaps in the short spells between travel show appearances if we jotted down all the meaningful, must-attend events that call for our attention every month we would recognise travel event hosting is now a runaway train, out of control and costing us all valuable time and money with little evidence of a return on investment.

Some experts tell us that social media has taken over the role of networking which was once the motto of travel mart promotions;  ‘you have to be there to stay in touch’.  Not anymore in the digital era. We can Skype, Line or whatever making most travel networking events redundant.

But despite the advent of social media and other communication channels that challenge the need to shake hands every week in different cities across the region, travel trade events grow at every level from local seminars to international talkfests.

That’s because they make money for the organisers and for some media companies it might be the only way to survive in an aggressive online news environment.

As long as we are willing to fork out USD300 to 500 in registration fees there will be no shortage of experts with new ideas to lighten our corporate wallets.

You see this creativity at every level as experts and gurus discover new ways to dive into our budgets because they have a story they claim is worth telling.  Usually, they don’t. The stories turn out to be tales and folklore copied and pasted from reports long covered in dust.

If an event fails it is quickly forgotten and some times in the spirit of Easter they are resurrected later. There are no graveyards for failed travel events, no headstones no obituaries. That’s because a wave of the wand brings them back rebranded to harry us into parting with our hard-earned cash all over again.