Will Trade Show Attendance Be Impacted by the Recent Terrorism Plot?

TSE STAFF
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Hartford, CT –  The high cost of fuel and a slowing U.S. economy  are already beginning to stir up concern over the tenacity of the trade show industry. So news of a suspected plot to bomb U.S.-bound planes leaving the U.K. last week could not have come at a worse time. British authorities thwarted the terrorist plan on August 10th,  but many organizers are still wondering whether increased security regulations, long delays, fear of terrorism and the increased hassle of air travel  in general will  dissuade business travelers from coming to trade shows.

Research by  Jacobs Jenner & Kent (JJK), a leading marketing research  firm to the trade show industry, suggests the majority of prospective attendees will take the news in stride.  On August 11th, JJK conducted a telephone survey of 250 “regular trade show attendees”— defined as those who attend at least two trade shows each year (not meetings or conferences).   A high  87 percent said it will not impact their personal attendance decisions; 4 percent said it would; and 9 percent said they were uncertain.

“The airlines implemented new security precautions rapidly which gave  business travelers a sense of security,” said  Wayne Jacobs, CEO of JJK, who spoke to Trade Show Executive magazine at the SISO Executive Conference in Hartford earlier this week. “If nothing else happens for awhile, any initial hesitancy about air travel will be dismissed as business professionals get back down to business.”

However, Jacobs noted that among the 87 percent  of those who said it would not impact their personal attendance decisions, 14 percent said they might use an alternate travel method  — drive, take the train, etc.  And he cautioned that 37 percent of the business travelers said they would be less apt to take their spouse or family members  with them to events. “There are  also indications  that secondary employees of family-owned businesses may be unwilling to travel now,” he added.  This will affect the  economic impact on the host city slightly, Jacobs  pointed out.

The pool of business travelers that were surveyed by Jacob Jenner & Kent came from a random sample of attendees to North American trade shows,  cutting across 12 industries including building, manufacturing, technology, etc.   The firm, which was established in 1980, has uncovered numerous trends in the trade show industry  including the “Buying Team” concept at the International Machine Tool Show.  In addition,  JJK  began tracking travel concerns of trade show attendees following the terrorist attack on  the World Trade Center five years ago. In 2001, safety and travel were among  the top five concerns in 2001 but  dropped to the bottom of the Top Ten list in both 2004 and 2005, Jacobs noted.

Does Jacobs have any advice for trade show organizers? “I don’t believe there is anything show organizers can do — they certainly cannot insure more security on planes,” he said.  But he says they can take heart in the fact that this latest plot dominating  news headlines won’t have much of a negative impact on trade shows. The fact this plot was diffused gives some comfort that increased security measures are working.

Reach Wayne Jacobs at (410) 256-2206 or waynejacobs@jjkresearch.com.