Making a Splash: How to Maximize Reach for Your Brand at a Tourism Conference

For tourism and hospitality businesses, a conference is a perfect place to make a splash when launching a new brand or a major announcement. When we recently launched our new brand, Travel Alliance Partnership (merging the former Break the Ice Media and Travel Alliance Partners), we were thrilled with the buzz that we were able to create by celebrating our brand launch at a conference.

If you’ve ever been excited about making a big announcement, and then found yourself disappointed at the lack of response or awareness from your audience, the following tips can help to ensure your next announcement makes a big impact, as you maximize your reach at a tourism conference.

Conference Sponsorship

A tourism conference or trade show sponsorship is a great way to get some visibility in the tourism industry. There are many different conferences to choose from, and it’s important to select one where attendees will be the right audience for you.

For example:

If you are looking to increase visibility with consumers, then a consumer travel trade show is a good choice – many of them are themed (i.e. adventure travel, cruises, etc), so make sure the topic is something relevant to your destination or product.

For travel professionals looking to partner and network with each other, there are many industry conferences and travel trade shows. A large national travel industry trade show such as ABA or NTA will reach a high number of travel professionals, but sponsorships will likely have a higher price tag and more competition for attention. Sometimes, smaller regional or niche shows may be a better fit, if you can tap into the right audience for your business.

How we did it:

TAP chose to launch our new brand at the New York State Tourism Industry Association (NYSTIA) conference. As a New York State based business, our connections and client base are strongest in this state, and it was a perfect fit to celebrate our new brand and strengthen relationships with our existing clients and connections, as well as drawing some attention from new local contacts and prospective clients or partners.

Choosing the Right Sponsorship to Maximize Your Exposure

There are many different types of conference sponsorships, and they come with a variety of benefits to increase your visibility. Here are a few of the most common mediums of exposure included with conference sponsorships:

  • Presentation time – speaking and/or visual presentations such as video or PowerPoint
  • Text – business description or update in conference communications or printed materials
  • Logos and images – on printed materials or custom conference swag

Choosing the right sponsorship will be dependent on your goal. If you are a destination and your goal is to attract more visitors or travel trade, then visual presentations or imagery will be key. Some creative visual sponsorships that are often available at tourism conferences include photo booths, custom hotel door hangers, or custom hotel key cards.

On the other hand, if you are launching a major announcement or rebrand, then speaking time and/or text updates will be the way to go, so you can be sure to get your message out.

Of course, budget will also play a factor. If you are launching a new brand, presentation time is ideal, but those types of sponsorships do come with a higher price tag. If that’s not in your budget, there are typically lower price point options that will include logo placement in multiple conference materials and communications, which is a great way to show off your new logo and create some buzz.

How we did it:

TAP chose a sponsorship package that included a presentation from stage (where our CEO Nicole Mahoney shared about our brand journey), hosting an evening networking reception, and logo placements in printed materials and conference communications. In addition, we sponsored the conference delegate bags, and were able to include some swag and a flyer about our services and membership programs.

Show Off What Makes You Unique

In order to attract the right clients and partnerships at a conference – the ones who will fit best with your business – you need to know exactly who you are. Your company’s values, purpose, and character should be woven through everything you do, including conference activities and sponsorships. When delegates can easily catch glimpses of what makes you unique, chances are much higher that they will take the time to seek you out and find out more about what you do.

How we did it:

When TAP launched our new brand at the NYSTIA conference, we highlighted several of our unique values and traditions – including innovation, and our light-hearted and passionate TAP traditions – through our sponsorship of the conference, and specifically an evening networking reception.

Highlighting a Core Value: INNOVATIVE

As one of our core values, being innovative is a large part of what makes TAP unique. When we sponsored and hosted a networking event as part of the NYSTIA conference, we went beyond the usual expectation of a simple mingling event with snacks and drinks, and planned a card matching game that would encourage people to actively seek out new connections. The game was so effective that people raved about this engaging ice-breaker and asked for permission to use our idea at their own events. Demonstrating our innovation? Mission accomplished!

Highlighting a Core Value:

One TAP tradition that we enjoy at our own annual conference TAP Dance is a boisterous and passionate welcome to our highly valued supplier delegates. Staff and tour operator partners stand on either side of the room entrance and clap and cheer as the attendees enter, making them feel appreciated and welcomed. We decided to bring this tradition to our sponsored networking event at the NYSTIA conference, and it was a big highlight, with many guests enjoying the experience so much that they turned around and went back for a second entrance!

Making Connections at Conference Events

While sponsorships are a great way to increase visibility, there are other things that you can do as a regular conference attendee to enhance your team presence, or even stand out as memorable without a sponsorship.

Stand Out From the Crowd with Unique Team Apparel and Swag

When TAP was planning our brand launch, we knew that we wanted team apparel and swag that stood out from the crowd. We achieved this by choosing branded items that were out of the ordinary – and the most unique choice by far was our branded sneakers. The amount of buzz that these created in just one conference made the purchase well worthwhile, and they continue to draw attention and comments at every conference that our team attends.

Make the Most of Every Opportunity to Network

If you’re attending a conference on your own, it will force you to introduce yourself and meet new people. But when teams attend a conference together, they often tend to group together – and even when you’re on your own, sometimes you’ll connect with a few people right away, and spend the rest of the conference gravitating towards the people you’ve already met.

While it’s a good idea to nurture good connections that you may find, it’s also important to make the most of the networking opportunities that are available at conferences by spreading out and meeting as many people as you can. You might have eye-catching branded apparel, but in a sea of conference attendees, not everyone may get the chance to notice you!

How we did it:

Even though TAP had a sponsored table for all the conference meals, we deliberately spread out and used the opportunity to meet as many people as possible. The branded sneakers that our team members wore also made an excellent icebreaker, as people couldn’t help but comment on them nearly every time we met someone new!

Using these strategies to stand out and maximize your reach at a tourism conference can spread your message like wildfire! You can read more about TAP’s full brand journey, and how we determined who we are (and the message we wanted to spread) in this blog post, or listen to Nicole tell our story on the Destination on the Left podcast.

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