Mickey Schaefer
Mickey Schaefer

Positive Tourism Experiences = Maximizing Attendance

Today’s attendees are consumers, discerning travelers who base their decision to attend on both the educational content and the EXPERIENCE they perceive they will have at the host destination/city.

That, and more, comprise the findings of the recent Decision to Attend Study conducted by U.S. based The EXPERIENCE Institute® (TEI) in cooperation with the International Association of Exhibitions & Events (IAEE) and the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA).

In 2013, after spending three years and over 2,000 hours of primary research, TEI succeeded in developing the industry’s only consumer-driven standards by which destinations can measure the total visitor experience and take action on ‘Things That Matter’ to visitors (e.g. attendees, business travelers, and leisure travelers).

TEI’s consumer standards helped define the Decision to Attend Study, the purpose of which is to examine the behaviors behind the decision to attend. Phase One of the study, released in January 2015, included an extensive 6-minute survey that delved into myriad behavioral factors that impact why people choose to attend conventions/expos — or not. The survey was distributed by ten U.S. organizations with large conventions/exhibitions which serve the industries of medicine, education, engineering, automobiles, banking, and more.

Decision to attend study EXECUTIVE SUMMARY FINAL

A remarkable 7,171 attendees responded, with very interesting findings:

  • The Future of Face-to-Face Conventions is Strong: 92% indicate a high propensity to attend across all generations, with younger generations (Gen X and Gen Y Millennials) trending slightly higher.
  • Attendees Want to Learn: Over two-thirds (68%) are attending the same or more educational events. Even the younger generations trend strong as adult learners.
  • Attendees Fuel Destination Spending: One-half reported they’d be likely to Extend Their Stay, Turn the Trip Into Vacation, and Bring Others with them; with 75% reporting they’d be likely to get Out and About during the conference.
  • Positive Experiences Drive Repeat Visits and Repeat Attendance: If the destination experience is POSITIVE, 84% are likely to return for the same event and 78% are likely to return to the destination for leisure. If the experience is NEGATIVE, less than 10% will return for either — showing the sale isn’t made when the convention is booked, the sale is made when the convention leaves.
  • Key Drivers are Education, Staying Abreast, and Networking: 95% attend for education and to stay abreast of their profession, with 75% attending for networking opportunities with ‘people like me’.
  • The Destination Matters: 80% report the destination impacts their decision to attend, with frequent attendees and younger generations rating it highest.
  • Who Makes the Decision: 73% decide themselves; 35% of younger generations need approval to attend.
  • Barriers to Attending: Prominent barriers are Cost, Time, and Destination/City Appeal. Younger generations asked for installment payments to pay the registration fee, cost reduction for airport transfer, and more. It’s bridging the gap between the desire to attend with the ability to attend.
  • When Do They Decide: 80% decide 2-6 months prior, with Gen Y Millennials most likely to register within 30 days, as they are considering lodging options and ‘things to do’.

What’s next? Phase Two is underway, which includes the development of a behavioral profile template to identify the top 3-5 specific behaviors and interests of that event’s attendees, e.g. interests in arts, sports, outdoor, nightlife, etc. from which event organizers and destination marketing organizations (DMOs) can target promotional messaging in order to MAXIMIZE ATTENDANCE.

After all, our mutual objective is to turn the thousands of attendees into fans ─ ‘raving fans’ who are key to increased attendance, enhanced visitor spending, and positive word-of-mouth for the event and the destination. If successful, everyone wins.

Mickey Schaefer

Hey! I am first heading line feel free to change me

Industry leader, Mickey Schaefer, FASAE, CAE, CTA, has been honored in many ways including induction into the Hall of Leaders of the Convention Industry Council (CIC) and named five times to the 25 Most Successful in the Meetings Industry by Successful Meetings magazine. Her trio of companies help destinations deliver positive visitor experiences through the Certified Tourism Ambassador™ (CTA) program, CTANetwork.com; on-line education through the newly launching Visitor Engagement Academy™; and aligning businesses to measure and improve the visitor experience through The EXPERIENCE Institute® (TEI) standards and its Experience-Dedicated™ Destination (EDD) accreditation program, TheExperienceInstitute.org.

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