Travel Conferences, Events and Trade Shows

There are numerous travel industry events, conferences and trade shows held around the world; many focus exclusively on specific travel sectors such as travel agencies, cruise, airline, hotel and hospitality, etc., or seek to address products, services or key business processes (e.g., distribution, technology, e-commerce, etc) for travel suppliers or retailers (or both).

Some of these programs are attended by a large cross-section of top- and mid-level executives at large and small travel companies from many industry sectors, while others  generally attract a smaller cadre of professionals who specialize in specific disciplines (e.g., business travel, revenue management, CRM, etc).

Since Travel Affiliate Programs are in their infancy, most Affiliates have not caught on to the benefits of selling travel, and therefore there are few speakers and topics on affiliate marketing presented at these industry events. However, that shouldn’t detract you from considering attending some of these conclaves.

In fact, you could gain significant competitive advantage if you participate in certain conferences and trade shows, particularly if they focus on the same travel products or customers as you.  Aside from the quality of educational programs offered, in our estimation conferences and trade shows offer the most optimal avenue to build business relationships with key suppliers, as well as to get to know and network with the industry’s ‘movers and shakers’.

The list of travel events, conferences and trade shows is quite extensive, so we won’t list them here (for a somewhat comprehensive list of travel retailing conferences and events go to ).

However, there are several we think worthy of highlighting.

Best Retail Travel Trade Show is our top choice in the general travel trade show category. This is a relatively new trade show – just a couple of years old – and, as it name indicates, its sole focus is on home-based travel retailers (mostly at-home travel agents).

What makes this trade show unique is that it’s offered on a ‘virtual’ basis, so you can ‘attend’ without ever leaving your office.  Just about every travel supplier you can think of participates, making an excellent “one-stop shop” event where you can browse and assess a huge number of travel supplier products and services.

Since Travel Affiliates share many of the same business characteristics as at-home travel agents, we think affiliates should mark this trade show as a ‘must attend’ on their calendars.

Best General Travel Industry Conference The U.S. Travel Association’s premier travel event, TravelCom is arguably one of the largest industry forums that brings together all sectors of the travel industry, regardless of whether they are traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ travel companies, purely online enterprises or associated enterprises like state tourist boards, convention and visitor bureaus, manufacturers of travel products and other travel related services.

The U.S. Travel Association is a non-profit trade organization that is comprised of travel and travel related companies (including such major players as American Express, Marriott Hotels, Hertz, Carnival Cruises, Expedia, United Airlines, National Geographic and USA Today, among many others), whose mission is to represent and champion the common interests of the U.S. travel industry.

Given its ownership, TravelCom seeks to provide a conference platform to engage all types and levels of professionals involved with the travel industry.  Their conference program and speaker roster runs the gamut from car rental, cruise and hotel industry presentations to search engine optimization and Web 2.0 technologies. The accompanying small Exhibition tends to focus on technology.

Best Travel Distribution and e-Commerce Conferences

Travel Distribution Summits – Produced by the same folks who publish the daily travel news report and business intelligence about the global travel industry, EyeOnTravel have been holding a number of worldwide shows that drill-down on issues such as the changing landscape of travel distribution, new channels and players, technology applications and new business models for many years.

Their Travel Distribution Summits, and sister conferences on CRM, Revenue Management and Pricing in Travel, and more recent addition Mobile Strategies for Travel generate some rather impressive industry wide attendee numbers.  As most of these conferences are held regionally (US, Europe and Asia), each tends to be customized to reflect the local market dynamics or specific topics, but they also present cutting-edge sessions and workshops on the key topics facing the industry at large.  They also include a vendor trade show which is heavily weighted towards technology, which provides a great opportunity to see first-hand the latest technology advancements being deployed by the travel industry.

PhoCusWright Conferences – The conference and trade show arm of PhoCusWright, Inc., which is one of the leading market research firms that tracks the travel industry, particularly from an online perspective.

The annual PhoCusWright Conference, held in Orlando and Los Angeles in alternating years, is considered by most industry observers as the premier online travel event.  This conference routinely features CEOs, MDs or other senior executives from some of the largest travel companies around the world, as well as entrepreneurs from Web 2.0 travel start-ups that purport to be the next ‘’ as speakers and presenters.

If rubbing shoulders with the elite is something you’re interested in – beyond just enhancing your knowledge about the travel industry and its place in e-commerce – then this might be the right conference for you.

PhoCusWright also produces or participates in other travel shows.  Of particular note is its TRAVDEX trade show , which is essentially an elaborate ‘meet market’ where purveyors of travel technology products, services and solutions can meet up with buyers from travel supplier and travel intermediary companies.  If you’re a pure techie, this might be the conference for you.