Tips for Tour Operators at Travel Trade Shows and Events

travel trade shows

It’s the start of a New Year and you’re full of new ideas and resolutions.  One of the things you might be thinking about for your tour operator business is scheduling in some events and travel trade shows.

Are they really worth it?  and do they offer return for your time or money, if they are paid events?

I used to be very much in the latter category of thinking events were a waste of time: a necessary evil that I grudgingly went along to. Over 2014, however, I went to some great conferences and realised this  is actually a flawed way of thinking.  The right conferences were a great use of my time.

Here are some reasons why 2015 should be your year of the conference:

1. Visibility

Conferences offer you the opportunity to make your tour business more visible.  You can exhibit, be a keynote speaker, sit on an expert panel or even help moderate an event.  These are great ways to highlight to buyers and customers your knowledge in your area of expertise.  Your local tourist board representative or travel journalist will also be impressed and may be more inclined to feature you in the future.

2. Explore the market

Conferences also give you the opportunity to explore the market more broadly.  If it’s an international or regional event you can learn from other tour operators in your area of interest .  This is a great way to generate new product ideas and build relationships with operators that can cross promote your services to their customers.

3. Getting away from the day to day

Breaking the normal routines of work can be extremely cathartic and worthwhile for your business.  Without going into the psychology, this is an opportunity for your “in the shower” moment.  Take in a talk on a topic or issue that inspires you, soak it up and let your mind do the rest.  This can be an extremely fruitful way to find solutions to problems in your business that appeared insurmountable just a few days previously.  A little perspective never hurt anybody and surrounding yourself with like minds creates a sense of community and comfort that you are not alone and others face similar ups and downs as you.

4. Fun

First and foremost conferences can be great fun.  You can have opportunities to do activities such as at the Adventure Travel Summit in Killarney, Ireland last year or there could be opportunities for networking drinks with new and old business acquaintances.  These are most certainly opportunities for business development but they’re also a great time to just relax and let your hair down a bit.

5.  Create meaningful relationships

Business is about people, hey the world is about people and creating relationships! Turn around to the person sitting beside you and ask them their name and let the conversation flow from there.  Keynote speakers are human too and love to hear feedback on their presentations.  Be yourself but don’t hanker in the shadows.  This is an opportunity for you to shine.


Of course for tour operators conferences can be a boon for creating successful one-off products.  Stay connected with local destination marketing organisations (DMOs) and conference organisers and see if you can create a compelling offering for attendees.


Mega events should lead to an uptick in general business so it’s important to stay on top of these also, to really capitalise on the extra footfall.  For instance in our home city of Dublin, the tech conference: the Web Summit has doubled each  year to 20,000 attendees in 2014!  An opportunity not to be missed.


Measure your success

Conferences and events can no doubt seem like a waste of time if you are not aiming and measuring a particular outcome. This can sometimes be hard to do especially if you are there to find out about new trends and to network, but everything can be measured in some shape or form.


Before going to a conference spend some time researching who is on the attendance list.  Pick out the people or businesses that you want to talk to or find out more about.  Try and arrange meetings with these people in advance.  Aim to make contact with a certain number of people and likewise, get their business cards in return.  Always promptly follow up with these people, summarising your conversation and giving them any more information they were looking for.


Olan O'Sullivan
Olan O'Sullivan
CEO at Acteavo
Olan is the CEO and Co-founder of Acteavo. You can follow Olan on Twitter or Linkedin.