Study: Trade Show Attendees Seek Accessible Destinations

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Trade show exhibitors aren't typically picky: If there's business to be gained at the show, they'll go -- wherever it happens to be. Trade show attendees, however, are a little more selective, finds a new study by Drs. Karin Weber and Xin Jin of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU).

Published last week, the study explored the attractiveness of exhibition destinations from visitor and organizer perspectives. Attendees, it found, are more likely to attend trade shows when they take place in destinations with good accessibility and an attractive leisure environment.

"For visitors, accessibility is the most important factor in deciding the attractiveness of an exhibition destination," PolyU reported. "Accessibility includes the city's location and the ease of traveling to it, transport to the venue within the city, and the ease of finding information about the city."

Succeeding accessibility in order of importance were: meeting facilities, the destination's leisure environment (i.e., whether it is safe, friendly, clean, and has tourist attractions), economic environment, and the "cluster effect," or whether the host city is a center for manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers of the exhibition products.

Because they value attendees' preferences, trade show organizers evaluate destinations according to similar criteria, according to the study.

"The organizers were more concerned about meeting visitors' rather than exhibitors' needs, because they thought that the latter would 'go anywhere' if there is an opportunity for business," PolyU reported. "As visitors are much harder to attract, the researchers suggest that finding an accessible host city with a 'good variety of convenient, high-quality accommodation' is essential. Similar to tourism destinations, the availability of leisure facilities is also important in attracting exhibition visitors."

The importance of accessibility, Weber and Jin concluded, puts second- and third-tier destinations at a serious disadvantage -- even when they have large and modern convention centers. 

"Overall, the organizers gave the impression that … second-tier cities are not good enough for large-scale, international exhibitions because of their inaccessibility and lack of drawing power," noted PolyU, which said the "cluster effect" is much more important to trade show organizers than trade show visitors.

"Ideally, the host city should be a manufacturing base of the industry, because manufacturers are more likely to support an exhibition that is logistically easier for them to attend," PolyU concluded. "However, although being an industry leader is desirable, it is not essential. The researchers note that exhibition organizers may be better off considering a leading city, particularly for consumer goods and services exhibitions that do not need to be close to manufacturing bases."

The study took place in China.