It’s been around for thousands of years and it will still be here in another thousand years: the trade show.
For hotel managers in Europe, there are at least 70 shows annually where you can check out the latest products and gadgets for your hotel: from bed sheets to bath foam, coffee cups to coat racks and light bulbs to linens.
But what if you’re looking for a new conference and banqueting software? Or a new hotel management software? Or a new point-of-sale system? At which trade show will you find a good selection of top vendors and knowledgeable technology salespeople?
We’ve asked both buyers and sellers of hotel technology to find out where they spend their trade show budget. We were expecting a wide variation but some clear winners emerged.
The number one place to see hotel technology is the ITB in Berlin. Yes, ITB is about much more than just technology. But one walk through halls 8.1, 9 and you’ll see the who’s who in hotel technology. All of the big names are there along with their latest and greatest products. Play your cards right and you can score invitations to parties than can keep you busy every evening while you’re in Berlin. ITB takes place every year in March.
There’s a considerable gap between ITB and the number of two on this list. Despite intensive efforts to generate an international audience, most of the European trade shows are regional affairs. An exception is the IGEHO in Switzerland. Located in Basel at the intersection of Germany, France and Switzerland, IGEHO tends to attract a much more international audience than most. Yes, you will run into a lot of vendors asking you to sample the latest in Swiss cheese, French wine and German sausage but, let’s face it, there are worse things in life than that. Nevertheless, scattered throughout the vast exhibition area you would have found at the last show 45 POS vendors, 18 financial accounting software vendors, 17 front office software vendors and literally hundreds of other vendors covering every technology need of a hotel. IGEHO takes place every two years in November. The next show is in November 2013.
Finally, the comparatively tiny show HOSPACE received a number of votes. HOSPACE, formerly known as BAHA, is more of a conference than an exhibition, but it is attended almost exclusively by revenue managers and IT professionals from the hotel industry. The accompanying exhibition area is populated only by technology vendors. Equally interesting are the speakers, round tables and panels. So HOSPACE is a place where you not only can meet some of the new vendors, but educate yourself on the latest trends in hotel technology. HOSPACE takes place every November at Heathrow Airport in London.
A few honorable mentions: Equip’Hotel in Paris is a sizable trade show catering largely to the French-speaking world. World Travel Market in London is a smaller version of ITB yet highly relevant for distribution technology. For those venturing beyond Europe, the HITEC, taking place annually in USA, should not be missed and the Arabian Travel Market at the Dubai Convention Center has increased rapidly in importance over the last 10 years.
Trade shows are great if you want to shake a lot of hands, keep your smile going all day and collect a large stack of business cards. But you’ll probably pay top price for a hotel room, fly in packed planes and come home with a hangover after all the parties. Still, if you want to try out on-premise products, a trade show may be the best place to do it.
If, on the other hand, you’re next software decision is going to be for cloud-based software, a trade show may unnecessary. After all, you can try out cloud-based software wherever you want, whenever you want.