Roadshows vs Trade shows: Where best to spend your marketing budget


Tourism Update delves deeper into roadshows and trade shows, weighing up the pros and cons of each, as many in the industry – due to financial limitations – have to choose between the two when marketing their tourism products and services.

A recent Tourism poll on the topic asked readers to vote on the most effective way to market their tourism products. 31% voted ‘trade shows’, whilst 69% voted for ‘roadshows’.

Carol Weaving, Managing Director of Reed Exhibitions, who has noticed an increase in trade show attendees’ year-on-year, said the sole purpose of a trade show was to create a marketing and business platform that provided exposure for participating exhibitors to large numbers of potential and targeted buyers, in a short period of time. Roadshows, however, allow individuals to be in control of the event entirely, including timing, venue and audience, with more one-on-one interaction with customers, which can ultimately deepen client relationship.

During this year’s Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa) Conference, a panel discussion, ‘The Future of Roadshows – Maximising your Marketing Spend’, was held. Panelists included Derek Houston, MD of Houston Travel Marketing Services; Jacqui Reynolds, Managing Partner of On Show Solutions; and Abby Swartz, Marketing and Promotions Manager for the Nordic Region at South African Tourism.

Weaving commented: “Roadshows are generally smaller and more intimate; you have the opportunity to take your product to the customer and can create a more personalised experience. Generally, roadshows are good for breaking into a specific market in that specific area, which smaller tour companies would find beneficial if they are new to the area, or launching a new tour in that area. Larger companies might find the roadshows beneficial when launching a new product that is specific to the more intimate target audience.”

Seychelles Tourism Board on Road show in three Indian cities

“Roadshows are important for emerging markets,” agrees Houston. “A lot of networking and interaction takes place on roadshows, which I think really works.”

Furthermore, Reynolds said roadshows were the perfect platform for industry stakeholders to reintroduce themselves if they had not been visible within a specific market for a few years.

Opposing schools of thought

Reynolds believes that roadshows are a more effective way of doing business. “The future of roadshows is a positive one, as you can get a message across to a lot of people and keep those relationships going.”

However, Weaving said she believed trade shows were more effective as they offered exposure during the build-up, during and after the show, as well as full 360-degree exposure and awareness.

“Marketing opportunities are offered, not only on the trade floor but also through various other platforms such as media exposure, digital exposure, structured meetings, networking opportunities, and brand alliance, just to name a few,” added Weaving. “Global trade show brands such as World Travel Market Africa provide the exhibitors with a global reach that extended internationally and truly maximised through these multi-national channels and far-reaching exposure opportunities. This kind of international recognition can only be achieved at trade shows, which is a great return on investment for any participating party.”

“Don’t think trade shows don’t exist,” commented Reynolds. “They work in synergy with roadshows.”

Budget considerations

Swartz suggested that those in the tourism industry needed to take into consideration their budget, and then look at the opportunities of both trade shows and roadshows, and make selective decisions, as bigger companies can play in both areas.

Reynolds added that, once they decided on an emerging market, industry players needed to assess the various trade shows, as not all were equally successful.

For companies with limited budget, Weaving said: “Though roadshows can be more intimate and targeted, they are not necessarily more cost effective. A trade show can, in fact, work out more cost effective for a smaller company as they are generally over a longer period with more foot traffic and at a lower cost than what is spent on a roadshow. So they can be more financially viable. The trade show organizers also spend a lot of time on researching and gathering the right kind of target audience for the show, which ensures that exhibitors are getting good quality visitors coming through their stands.”

For an operator to get the most out of their time with a limited budget, Weaving believes that attending a trade show would be more beneficial, as operators are exposed to a greater variety of options to offer clients, and are able to network extensively within a limited period of time.

Furthermore, Weaving said operators attending trade shows were able to extend their reach and offering into a variety of markets, and can decide to connect with their limited time and budget. In addition, Weaving added: “Operators are given a ‘one stop shop’ at a trade show.”

Multi-directional benefits

According to Weaving, the benefits of trade shows for smaller companies include extensive brand exposure and awareness; allowing for broad networking opportunities to build relationships and generate business leads, as well as conduct and write business; competition analysis of other similar companies within the same field; greater reach of market availability in terms of country representation; assisting smaller companies to boost their brand awareness effectively and tap into new markets that may not have been open to them before; as well as using the platform to launch new products and test the market.

The benefits of trade shows for larger companies, according to Weaving, include a cost-effective platform to extend their brand awareness; offering networking opportunities and relationship-building campaigns; a platform to allow for larger companies to extend their reach and accessibility by having more people available to work the system and connect with relevant people; an opportunity to generate revenue and build on existing industry relationships; and a platform to enter into a new market, such as moving further into the African continent. In addition, larger companies have the added benefit of making use of business matchmaking, providing them with the platform to meet and discuss business opportunities and with trade visitors directly during the show.


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