The tourism industry ends each year with a rather quiet month in December and remains slow in January. As the New Year begins, winter is the primary trade show season. The tourism industry uses the dead of winter as the time to attend and participate in large travel, boat and RV shows in major cities. This happens in January and February when it is cold and dreary outside and locals are looking for something to do. In addition, the visitors to these shows are tired of winter so it provides a vulnerable time for companies selling RV’s and boats to appeal to consumers with warm weather fun on their minds.
These large travel shows are typically held in metro convention centers and cover hundreds of thousands of square feet featuring booths and exhibits by destination marketing organizations, like the Alabama Department of Travel and Tourism and Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) and others from all around the country and world, set up booths at these shows. Our area is promoted at our state booth and at AMLA booth. Some years I attend some of these shows as a volunteer to work at the booth.
The idea is to deliver the information to attendees of the travel show that will help them decide their travel plans for spring, summer and fall. We hope we can convince them to make our area one of the places they want to visit. Destination marketing organizations, like ours, will take one large convention hall, but that is not the whole exhibit. The other exhibition halls will have boats and fishing exhibits, another exhibit hall will have RV’s and camping supplies. Some of these travel shows include motorcycles.
Some of these expos, like in Indianapolis Indiana, St. Louis Missouri, Louisville Kentucky, Chicago Illinois, Toronto Canada and Columbus Ohio, have an estimated 75,000 people that will walk this large convention center looking at travel guides and other printed information in addition to talking to destination marketing personnel from various locations. Much of the consumer vacation planning is done in the winter, just as much of our industry’s annualized destination marketing is done in the “off season.” This way all the ad plans are ready to go when spring comes.
For most of us the winter season is all about planning and development and the travel expos fit perfectly into our annualized promotion. The shows that AMLA attends are picked based on their known market appeal from visitors. The most popular states to visit north Alabama are Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida and southern Canada. The big attraction in the Midwest that draws visitors to us is camping, fishing, boating and outdoor recreation and sightseeing. Many of the people from the Midwest come in the spring when it is warmer here but still cold where they live. In the fall, visitors come mostly from the coastal areas of south Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. They like to come north for fall foliage, which they don’t have much of and they like our cooler, dryer fall air.
Working at the large travel shows gives us a presence at a fairly low cost. These shows give us a direct voice to our potential visitor and overall create better visibility and gives us a personalized, person to person format to help sell our destinations.
Women are often the ones doing the travel planning for their family and these travel expos are a good place to conduct destination marketing. It is our goal at DeKalb Tourism to bring more visitors to our area each year. As people become familiar with our area it becomes easier to get them to come and we know, once here, they will have a great time and will make plans to return.
— John Dersham is president and CEO of DeKalb Tourism.