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Understanding Trade Show Visitors as Part of International Tourism

5 Mar 2019

Travel has a certain reputation as belonging only to vacationers who have donned Hawaiian shirts and have set their sights on pristine beaches and tropical results. The truth is somewhat complicated as the reasons why people travel are numerous and beg for further investigation. Outside leisure purposes, travelers partake in cultural travel, medical tourism and our field of interest – business tourism. Business travel has always been a companion to international tourism since the first airline carriers appeared and is a phenomenon that’s only growing.

It’s not exciting anymore to hear that an acquaintance or family member has flown to an exotic destination on a business trip. Precisely why we’ve been interested in understanding this specific type of traveler and their impact worldwide in economic terms. First, we need to draw some lines to distinguish between trade show visitors and leisure travelers.

Trade Show Visitors Vs. Leisure Travelers

You can view these two groups as completely complimentary of each other and this has a lot to do with the peak seasons of both. Leisure travel typically occurs during the summer with high season generally starting in the middle of June and running all the way until the end of August. Children are out of school. It’s hot. Families want to spend time together. Things generally wind down and there is little activity business-wise in Europe and North America.

You find professionals traveling to trade shows as soon as autumn arrives. September through late November and early December is the first peak for the business travelers as everyone who’s had the time to recharge is back at work and ready to sell. Then the season winds down as the winter holidays arrive only to pick up in January and last the entirety of spring. We want to note that as a general trend the closer the calendar creeps to summer, the fewer events there are in the calendar.

A Whole New Species of Hotels Emerge

Business travel destinations also tend to defer from the standard destinations people consider for their summer vacation. Business travelers head to commercial hubs like London, Berlin, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Geneva, Amsterdam and Stockholm, which are not always pleasant during the colder months. Within those cities another branch of the hospitality industry has taken root – the business hotel sector. Resort hotels and five-star spa hotels have limited appeal for trade show visitors.

The industry of business hotels has other considerations. First and foremost, an adequate location in relation to the exhibition centre. A short commute is often most appealing. Other locations for these hotels that are suitable include train stations and airports. Business hotels also need to secure near-constant connectivity to the Internet and offer contemporary facilities whether it’s to get some last minute work or hold meetings and presentations. All these considerations inflate the price tag associated with business travel.

The Interesting Relation to Hotel Pricing and Travel Costs

Leisure travelers are often motivated by price. Some seek out certain destinations, because they’ve come across exceptionally low plane tickets for a certain period. Most look at hotels based on their budget, because after all – every expense on the road comes out of their pocket. It’s partially why constant discounts and price slashing are the main tools for resort hotels to compete against each other.

No such considerations are at play as in general trade show visitors are sent to an event by their employer and are allotted some cash for personal spending. None of the costs associated with their travel and their stay are paid by them, which is why trade show visitors often spend more money on their travels. It’s not their money to spend and that has an interest effect on local economies.

The Economic Impact of Business Tourism, Direct & Indirect

Business tourism is an indicator of wealth. The direct impact of income that comes from business tourism goes into improving the country’s GDP as well as attracting more investment in the cities that host trade shows. To make these business travel destinations even more appealing – there are efforts put into upgrading the infrastructure and public transport so that more trade show visitors have an easier time commuting to the exhibition centres.

The more indirect impact has to do with foreign trade. Trade shows foster face-to-face meetings between numerous countries across all industries and in-person negotiations remain as the best possible tool to develop international business relationships. As such business tourism is the main engine behind world trade. Studies have found that countries that demonstrate a larger outbound business travel market report exports at higher numbers compared to countries that lack in this area. Trade growth and business travel growth are often linked together in this sense.

This correlation holds true whether the country is a developed or a developing one. Trade itself is a catalyst for a number of favorable changes in a country’s local economy – the creation of real competition, stimulation of innovation, focus on areas of competitive advantage and the creation of economies of scale.


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