Hopeful Suppliers, Despite Empty Aisles

Despite the projection by management that The Motivation Show, which includes the Incentive Travel and Meeting Exposition, held October 9 to 11 in Chicago, would suffer only a 3 to 5 percent cancellation rate by exhibitors, it showed signs of deeper attrition.

Buoyed by messages of getting back to business, many of the exhibitors traveled long distances for the show, from as far way as Asia and the Middle East. But empty booth spaces and fewer exhibitor personnel were evidence that the terrorist attacks of 9/11, coupled with a slowing economy, have affected attendance even at meeting-industry events. Nancy Petitti, show director of (show manager) Hall-Erickson, estimated a 20 percent reduction in buyer attendee numbers compared to last year.

Representatives from tourist boards of Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Dubai, and Morocco came to the show as scheduled. Their booths and the Asia aisles had particularly light traffic. Even Europe is feeling the pinch. “We did a survey of all our members shortly after 9/11,” said Mady Keup, head of the London Convention Bureau. About 20 percent responded, and of those, 75 percent saw meeting cancellations.

Roger Helms, president and CEO of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based site selection firm Helms-Briscoe, which procures hotel rooms for meeting clients holding events the world over, reported, “We're already seeing business move out of international locations and to U.S.-based resorts. California and Florida, in particular, have seen an increased demand.”

Other regions that could see an uptick in meeting business are, not surprisingly, the U.S.'s neighbors. Ruth Sokol, promotion/sales director for the Mexico City Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, “We expected a lot of convention cancellations. But only one in four were outright cancellations. The rest have rescheduled or are postponing.”

Patrick Guidote, Tourisme Montreal, said that he noticed increased interest in Quebec and all of Canada at the show, because it “feels safe and accessible.”