Is it D-Day for consumer travel shows?

Are consumer travel exhibitions facing their eleventh hour?

Unlike travel trade shows like ITB in Berlin and the WTM in London, consumer travel exhibitions are facing hard times. And this will come as no surprise when you apply the same look, feel and set-up for over  20 years. For many many years I have been visiting shows like our Vakantiebeurs in Utrecht (the Netherlands) and the two ‘Vakantiesalons’ in Belgium. More or less a similar set-up; large exhibition halls, many booths, food, drinks, some entertainment. Well. When Ford car manufacturer produces the same model for 20 years, people will stop buying a Ford. A simple truth.  And this applies to virtually any service and  product. Innovation is a necessity.

The Holiday Fair in Brussels draws some 105,000 visitors so given the population of Belgium and Holland it is doing slightly better than the Vakantiebeurs which gets some 100,000 visitors. But without a drastic change of plan, visitor numbers will only go one direction ► down.

To at least maintain the number of visitors – let alone increase it –  a vigorous reorientation of these holiday shows is required. Otherwise, they will become extinct. This is not negativism, despondence or discouragement, but merely a realistic statement.  I think every consumer fair deserves the highest number of visitors and I for one am still a strong supporter of these kind of shows as a great PR, marketing and sales tool. Can you smell the wonderful scents of your destinations via a computer screen? Does the computer or iPad give you the correct answer to that burning question? A travel show beyond doubt still has a number of advantages over the impersonal worldwide web.

The Vakantiebeurs organisation are realizing it is the point of no return: sink or swim time. Some novelties they will be introducing for the 2014 edition include a focus on six types of holidays: A dedicated Square for each of the six holiday types, “experience” (adventure and far away destinations), “active” (cycling and walking), “see” (city trips & culture), “together” (family and children), “boating” (cruises and sailing) and “outdoors” (caravanning and camping).

A new lay-out, a lower entrance price and a revamped Vakantiebeurs website are also some measures introduced to turn the tide.

It’s D-day. Perhaps the comparison with warfare is appropriate. Trying to beat the enemy – dwindling interest and declining visitor numbers – with the correct strategy and vision. We will be hearing more on 10 September when the new Vakantiebeurs platoon will unveil their new approach and tactics in more detail.

For now: move forward Vakantiebeurs show and all the others!  Travelling, holidays and vacations will never cease to exist. We are in a people’s business. What a relief a face to face chat on a travel show can be in comparison to the online battle grounds. With an amended approach, they should be able to survive in the years to come.