Travel Trade Shows for Travel Trade Professionals

The tourism industry has so many different groups who all work together to provide awesome travel experiences to a world full of domestic and international travelers – the ultimate end consumer of the travel product. How do so many millions of visitors learn about, plan for and participate in these trips? They most often do so with the help of a travel professional, cumulatively known as the “travel trade.”

The Travel Trade is made up of people who sell travel to the visitor. They are group tour operators (offer trips for groups of people), receptive operators (sell to group tour operators and often work with the international market) and travel agents (work directly with individual consumers). But, who sells the travel experience to the travel trade? That’s where tourism offices, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs), attractions and accommodations come in.

Travel Trade Shows

So – how and where do all these travel professionals connect to do business? One of the most common and effective ways for the tourism industry to work together is attending travel trade shows.

At a travel trade show, the travel trade are the “buyers” and the destinations, attractions and accommodations are the “suppliers.” These shows are typically 2- 5 days long and most often made up of a series of short appointments where the suppliers sit down with the buyers on an individual basis. That’s right – speed dating for travel!

There is always a cost for a supplier to attend a show, however, if there is a cost for a buyer to attend, it is significantly less. The reason being, the more buyers that attend, the more suppliers will want to meet with them. Also in attendance at these industry shows are sponsors. They are vendors who work within the travel and tourism industry, and might include media companies, manufacturers and others who want to do work with the buyers and suppliers. This provides a wonderful forum for people to do business! In addition to the short meetings, there are always networking events (primarily in the evenings) where all attendees can be together and build relationships.

There are several trade shows for travel trade professionals available within the industry. It can be a daunting task to determine which is the best show for you, regardless if you are a buyer or a supplier. They vary in location, size, and format. Here are a few of the top shows that should be considered for travel trade sales.

Travel Trade Shows for Travel Trade Professionals

American Bus Association (ABA)

ABA Marketplace. This week-long event is the largest trade show for group tour business in the country. Over 3,500 attendees come together in January every year to kick off a new year of business opportunities. In addition to the seven-minute pre-scheduled appointments, there is a trade show separate from the meeting space filled with exhibit booths of various proportions. There are educational opportunities throughout the event as well. Free 30-minute seminars featuring personal, professional and industry training are available to all attendees every day of the event.

National Tour Association (NTA)

NTA Travel Exchange. NTA’s annual convention is a week-long show that happens in December and features buyers of all sizes who package travel to, from and within North America. The attendees represent the United States, Canada and 30+ countries worldwide. Different from ABA Marketplace, a component of this event is targeted toward the international market. Also offered here are seven-minute pre-scheduled appointments, a trade show separate from the meeting space and educational opportunities throughout the event.

  • Duration: 5 days
  • Meetings: Pre-schedule appointments, 7 minutes long
  • Show: Trade show with exhibit booths
  • Educational opportunities: seminars in 4 tracks
  • Differentiator: International component

Ontario Motor Coach Association (OMCA)

OMCA Marketplace. This event is basically the Canadian version of ABA’s Marketplace. The buyers who attend are primarily Canadian. This travel show is held in various Canadian destinations and takes place on an annual basis in November. This event is 3 days in length and the scheduled appointments are 8 minutes. Other than that, the format and style as far as trade show and educational sessions are similar to ABA’s Marketplace and NTA’s Travel Exchange. This conference is great for those suppliers who want Canadian business!

Travel Alliance Partners (TAP)

TAP Dance. This 3 day travel show is a national conference, however at a much more intimate size. The typical attendance at TAP Dance is less than 200 people, unlike the few thousand of attendees at the other events noted above. TAP Dance is an invitation-only event, but you can request an invite. Buyers at this gathering are approximately 20 individual tour companies throughout North America who collaborate by buying and selling from each other. They make up the organization that is Travel Alliance Partners. Each partner (or buyer in this case) invites specific suppliers (called PPTPs – Preferred Professional Travel Providers) to come together at this annual event. Every supplier meets with every buyer in 25-minute meetings. The suppliers are organized in regional groups, called pods, and the individual pods meet with each buyer. This event offers a much more collaborative experience allowing for more detailed conversations and time for relationship building. The smaller size means you also get more networking time with the tour operators at meals and evening events.

  • Duration: 3 days
  • Meetings: Pod appointments, 25 minutes long
  • Show: individual appointments only
  • Educational opportunities: guest speakers at meals
  • Differentiator: A more intimate experience

These are some of the national events that should be considered. There are also many options for local and regional travel trade shows. These events are usually shorter in length (1-2 days) and don’t often include educational seminars. A quick online search of “travel shows in x region, state, etc.” will provide options of local and regional opportunities.

Learn more about Break the Ice Media’s capabilities for travel trade sales and marketing.

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