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Travel agencies: launching a tourism trade-show, a great strategy to boost business?

Local travel trade shows are multiplying


Regional tourism trade shows around the themes of escape, travels, cruises… Since a few years, they have been flourishing everywhere in France. Organized by local travel agencies or mini-networks, these events reinforce their notoriety, but especially increase the annual business turnover. TourMaG.com interviewed the distributors who have taken that step.



This weekend, in Martinique, will take place the 3rd edition of the fair around the country’s cruises and escapes DR : SMCR Voyages
This weekend, in Martinique, will take place the 3rd edition of the fair around the country’s cruises and escapes DR : SMCR Voyages
Aside from the general public trade shows currently taking place in France’s major cities, some distributors are taking advantage of the off season of January-February to launch their own tourism events.

A local event, of one or two days, that can bring a lot to the travel agency organizing it.

“We make between €700,000 and 800,000 in direct sales”, told us, a few days ago, Jean Dionnet, CEO of Univairmer, preparing the L’Oise Tourism Fair, of which it was the eighth edition last weekend.

Lucien Salemi, head of Vivarel Voyages, estimates, on his part, of having registered close to €300,000 in business turnover, for the first edition of his Travel and Cruise Fair, that took place in Brignoles, on January 30 and 31, 2015.

“We didn’t expect to welcome this many visitors for this first date, exclaims Lucien Salemi. We have a bit more than 1,000 visitors daily.”

An opportunity to boost revenues

For Martine Roussel, who renewed on January 18th, 2015 her show on Cruising in Troyes, "the event became a true meeting point for clients. They already asked us if the operation will be renewed next year,” she specifies.

The head of Martin Roussel Voyages decided to center her trade show around cruises because the product adapts to all types of travelers.

“It also allows our clients to discover new styles of cruises, onboard a sailboat, an iceboat. This specialization makes the show even more attractive.”

This small-network also witnessed its cruises business turnover greatly increase in the last 2 years. “The show has a positive effect on sales, all throughout the year,” specifies Martine Roussel.

On his part, François Piot, president of the group Prêt-à-Partir, believes that the impact of each event brings in between 150,000 and 300,000 euros.

“We’re organizing, punctually, shows that are reserved to us. We did it for a few years at the Epinal, more recently at the Paris-Vatry airport. We communicate under the brand “Trade Show Prêt à Partir,” he adds.

Today, the travel fair of Vatry is no longer private, the airport took over management and invites various distributors to it.

But François Piot is already working on two new projects. “It’s a concept that we’re thinking of developing, especially since we can’t promote ourselves efficiently on existing, generic fairs.”

Fairs that are constantly evolving

Difficult, in fact, to compare these localized operations to a regional or national tourism fair.

“The impact is not comparable and the returns are much more important on one’s own fair,” confides Cécile Ridarch, director of the Martinique networks SMCR Voyages.

“Most of time, we participate in other fairs to be present, and not leave an empty space for our clients.”

In 2013, the network decided to create the first show on cruises and escapes on the island.

Last weekend, the 6 and 7 of February, the 3rd edition proved to be growing, in every sense of the term.

The number of provided rooms keeps growing, the opening to the general public will take place in the next 2 days (versus on Saturdays previously, Fridays being reserved to associations and work councils.)

The fair will also develop the offer of touristic products, with the presence of Regional Committees of Caribbean Tourism, hotel owners and airline companies will be abundantly present.

On the same line, the Penchard Voyages network decided, at the end of 2013, to relaunch a travel fair in Guadeloupe.

In November 2014, the 2nd edition of the tourism and cruising trade-fair registered close to 8,000 entrees.

“We noticed a small decrease of visitors (-6%) in comparison to the previous year,” specifies Jean-Michel Penchard, president of the mini-network, “due to the arrival of the Rum Route on Sundays. However, the average spending amount has increased.”

Each show has its own magic formula

As we notice, these private and local fairs, are playing the qualitative card. Some use a theme (Cruising, Honored destination), others will schedule conferences.

“One thematic allows to give sense to the event and not provide the impression of visitors that it’s the same things as the previous years,” explains François Piot. “But beware of thematics that are not…This has to be coordinated with conferences.”

In Brignoles, last weekend, close to 25 conferences were created in plenary discussion. “Every 30 minutes, an experts made a presentation concerning his field, for 20 minutes. A giant screen broadcasted the conference in the main hall,” specifies Lucien Salemi.

On the trade show at Chalon-sur-Saône, organized by the Girardot group for 31 years, 3 auditoriums of 200 seats enable for over sixty conferences to take place during 3 days.

The group that presents on 3,000 m2 in the city’s Expositions’ Park, even put in place a bus service in the surrounding communes to bring visitors to the show and boost attendance on Friday and Saturday.

“The visitor rate remains stable every year,” explains Pascal Girardot, CEO of Voyages Girardot. As long as the company dynamic remains, presenters and client keep showing up, we’ll keep this up.

But we have to keep in mind that a trade-show represents a large financial risk. It is more and more difficult and rare to have people move, and launching a trade-show today is a grand adventure.”

Pascal Girardot knows what he is talking about. In 2001, after the 9-11 attacks, there were talks of ending the trade-show.

“Instead of stopping everything, we decided to reserve a smaller room and organize a crisis trade-show, on 850 m2. That edition was a success,” he remembers.

Reinforce a relationship of proximity with clients

Beyond the financial return of the operation, a local trade-show enables to reinforce the relationship of proximity with the clients.

“On 9,000 contacted people through out client data base, close to half of them had not traveled through our agency in over 3 years, specifies Lucien Salemi. The show enabled us to be in touch with our contacts onces more.”

“This also gives us lots of notoriety and encourages loyalty, adds François Piot. It is a way to meet, during a day or two, a large portion of our clients.

But beware, it is the image of the agency that is at play during such an event: we can’t be lazy on the buffet and cocktails.”


To improve the quality of visitors, the Girardot group made starting charging the entrance, at the end of the 1990s.

But in 2001, the show became free again and the high quality clientele stayed.
“The public that only came for the goodies, did not come back,” rejoices Pascal Girardot.

Except for the fiasco in the first year, “we can’t do one-shot events: once we made the decision to launch a show, we have to maintain it for 3 years,” adds François Piot.

Distributors have understood it well, they’ve confirmed it, the shows in 2016 are already being prepared…

Creating a trade-show: an investment that requires time and money!

To confront the financial cost, some distributors are betting on local partners.

“With the Troyes city being a partner of the event, gives us a conference room listed at a Historical Monument,” states Martine Roussel.

“We chose to put the show under the supervision of the Deputy Mayor of Brignoles, Josette Pons, because it is truly a local event, that adds to the communal life, analyzes Lucien Salemi.

In exchange, our event is included in the city’s newsletter and on the website.”

In L’Oise, Eric Woerth, Mayor of Chantilly, inaugurates in the same way, the tourism trade-show.

These partnerships, with the city hall or the chamber of commerce, enable to make profitable part of the financial investments. The rest comes from marketing funds brought by partners (tour-operators, cruises, DMCs, hoteliers, CRT etc.) and, sometimes, from the prices of the entry tickets.

“A trade-show can be very profitable, it depends on the local market, adds François Piot. We can’t try to copy an existing show.”

Another help possible: that of networks. “TourCom helped up on the marketing aspect,” gives an example Lucien Salemi.

For Pascal Girardot, who manages to autofinance his show, “the goal isn’t to make money on the trade-fair. We sell stands at the buying price to our partners. Currently, that amount to less than €1000 for 9m2 with rental, equipments, communication operations, and meals, for 3 days.”

It is more the sales incurred during and after the show that count. The network makes between €300 and 350,000 in business turnover thanks to the sales during the show.

A very time-consuming project

Beware however of not forgetting the huge investment that such an event requires. While the business turnover and the cost can balance out, the time invested by the teams is important.

“The project was very well appreciated by collaborators, confirms Cécile Ridarch, even though it was hard to manage.

After the first edition, that was a bit of a test drive, the show gave an incredible visibility, thanks to the feedback in the local press, social networks, and the flux of clients in the agencies.

“For the first time, we have to plan at least 4 months in advance. Once we understand the procedure, just 6 weeks in advance is enough, with a great organization,” according to François Piot.

Lucien Salemi and his teams worked at it since early September. “And now, an immense amount of work will be necessary to respond to quote requests,” he specifies.

Because while clients generally have the possibility of buying their trip during the fair, even enjoy discounts or offers, “à la carte” requests require an additional meeting.

Written by Anaïs BORIOS translated by Joséphine Foucher the 10/02/2015
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