How to maximise your ROI at your next travel trade show

Although trade shows have been commonplace since the 1700’s, nowadays they are often disregarded due to associated costs and difficulty measuring a return. In part 1 of this series we debunked some of the common misconceptions around travel trade shows and uncovered 3 reasons why your 2019 marketing budget should include travel trade shows.

In this follow-up you’ll learn everything you need to prepare and make the most of any trade show you attend this year; we’ll also dish out our tips for enhancing and measuring your trade show investment ROI. To make it simple, we’ve broken it down into four easy sections to work through; The initial plan, before you go, while you are there and once you leave.

Before you sign up to just any travel trade show, start with the basics and have a think about your purpose. What would you like to achieve by attending a trade show? People attend trade shows for a multitude of reasons, whether it be connecting with business leads, generating sales, networking, casing out your competitors, building brand awareness or a combination of all of these. There’s no right answer, but understanding your desired outcome will allow you to set specific goals and guide the rest of your planning process.

The next step is to decide which trade show or shows are worth attending, and which staff member/s you will send.  If your purpose is purely networking with others in the industry, you may want to choose a trade show closer to home in order to cut down on travel and accommodation costs. If you plan on establishing business leads, selling to potential customers, or splashing out for an exhibit, it could well be worth your while to invest a bit more money and time into the trade show you plan on attending. Ultimately, all that matters is making sure you select the right one/s for your business.

Lastly, set a budget, and stick to it where possible. It’s always important to have an idea of how much you are willing to spend and that you get the greatest ROI possible.


Regardless of whether you are selling or networking, it’s important to consider where you are going to stay. It may seem like an odd thing to prioritise, but trust us, it’s important. Hotels associated with the event unsurprisingly have a lot of guests that are attendees of the trade show too. Choosing the right hotel could increase the opportunities to network and make connections. If your hotel is within walking distance to the show, you can easily request to meet business leads in the hotel bar or cafe, a calmer place to chat away from the hustle and bustle of the exhibit hall. As is the case with any major event, the longer you wait to book accommodation, the more restricted you will be in terms of location and availability.

Think outside the box with your giveaways

It’s standard procedure at trade shows to end the day with a bag full of miscellaneous items such as pens, lanyards and stress-balls with various company logos emblazoned on them. Although exciting at the time, the reality is that the majority of these most likely end up in the landfill sooner or later.

There are a million reasons why giveaways are important, but we think it’s just as important to really think about why, how and what you are giving away. Not only will environmentally friendly merchandise help reduce your footprint, but it will also help align your brand with a cause that both you, and many of your prospective customers care about. Check out these great ideas for eco-friendly giveaways to get some inspiration!

Scope out the guest list

It always pays to be prepared. As an exhibitor, you will likely be given preferential access to a list of attendees easily accessible on their website. Check out who is attending, exhibiting, speaking and sponsoring so that you can plan everything; from who you want to talk to right down to the specific questions that you ask. If you don’t have the privilege of receiving the attendee list, try social media – many trade show organisers will create an event or page on Facebook or LinkedIn where you can check out some of the attendees ahead of time.

Set up meetings

Contacting potential leads before the trade show is such an easy way to make sure that you spend your time effectively while you are there. Most people in attendance will likely have their own personal schedule, so trying to arrange meetings at the time may be futile.  Following up before the event to confirm your meeting is also paramount. Potential customers are much more likely to follow through with a meeting if they feel a personal connection to you. A social obligation has been created, which does not happen when dealing with a name on a computer screen.

Make the most of your conversations

There’s going to be thousands of people and businesses in attendance, so don’t be afraid to get creative in order to stand out. After all, you are in the travel industry, it’s exciting and dynamic. How can you show off your offering in a memorable way??

If you are focussed on selling, you may want to think about the types of questions are you likely to get asked, or perhaps you have a short video you can use to get your point across quickly. If you are focussed on buying or networking, prepare questions and conversation starters beforehand. And above all, put yourself in front of as many people as possible – sometimes it’s just a numbers game.

Connect Connect Connect!

Travel Trade shows can be massive. At ITB Berlin in 2018, there was over 110,000 trade visitors and another 60,000 members from the general public attending. With everyone in attendance potentially engaging with a couple of hundred people over a few days, it’s imperative that you find a way to differentiate yourself and make the most of the connections you’ve put the time and effort into making.

Business cards are usually the knee jerk reaction in these types of situations and while they are no doubt useful, giving someone your business card puts the ball in their court when it comes to getting in contact later. An easy way around this is to ask for their business card or contact details instead. Better yet, use an app like Zoho Card Scanner or utilise social media, allowing you to follow up immediately. So of course, this leads us to our next point…

Get Social!

Whether you are a lover or a hater of social media, it’s usefulness as a networking tool, especially at travel trade shows is undeniable. It’s an instant, easy and free tool to use for both connecting with potential customers or business contacts, as well as promoting your brand once you leave.

Learn more about how social media can be a powerful tool for your tour operator business here.

Organise the finer details

It’s often the little niggly things, important but easily forgotten, that can make or break your productivity and time at the travel trade show. Organising ahead and planning well will make sure that you don’t run into any of those sorts of troubles.

      • Block out time to eat lunch We’ve all been hangry before and it’s never nice. Make sure you take the time to have a rest and some food, it will make your day exponentially more enjoyable!
      • Look at the map Trade shows can be huge! It’s easy to underestimate the time it will take you to get through the crowd in one hall to the other. Look at a map and plan your route beforehand.
      • Take a power bank You don’t want to be the person searching for a power-point in the exhibit hall when you could be connecting with valuable leads!
      • Wear comfortable clothes (and shoes) You may be on your feet for a long time, don’t make it harder for yourself than it needs to be.
      • Be specific about where you are meeting –  There’s nothing worse than waiting for each other in different places. Avoid that by being as specific as possible!
      • Get a mobile phone number! You may have been talking beforehand with contacts on their office number. When it comes time to meeting up, a mobile number will save you valuable time and effort!


    Make sure the connections you have worked hard to make don’t fizzle out! It’s so easy to get home after the trade show and jump straight back into work again; before you know it two weeks have passed and you haven’t contacted anyone on your list. It may be a pain, but sitting down for a couple of hours and following up with everyone you met demonstrates that your tour operator business is reliable. Remember that the people you met would have had hundreds of other conversations with your competitors, taking time to say hello can be all it takes to put your business a step ahead of the competition.

    Measure your success

    Let’s be realistic, attending trade shows can be expensive. While they are certainly worth going to, it’s important to be able to measure your success and determine whether it was worth the investment in both time and money. How you do this depends on the goals that you’ve set, whether that be to collect business leads, generate sales, or simply network. This article dives deep into how to reliably measure your success at trade shows based on what you are wanting to achieve.

    There’s no way to know how beneficial travel trade shows will be until you attend. If you don’t feel like you got as much out of your experience as you thought you would, all is not lost! Re-evaluate your goals, change your strategy, do more preparation or simply choose a different show to attend next time.

    When calculating your ROI for a particular trade show it’s also important to also assign a value to the less tangible benefits such as brand awareness, competitor research and even employee satisfaction.

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