At Motivation Show, Event Pros Hone In On Disney Vacations; Exhibitors Anticipate Economic Recovery

By Jenny Berg October 1, 2009, 4:36 PM EDT

Dedicated to incentives, motivational meetings and events, and recognition awards, the Motivation Show wrappe up its three-day run at McCormick Place today. Offering more than 70 educational sessions and a trade show floor with a new product pavilion and 1,000 exhibitors, the show has a Web site and an on-site balloting system to track which seminars and exhibitions are most popular with the show's audience of meeting planners, travel agents, and representatives from incentive companies. This year, the crowd has shown interest in cost-saving rewards and Disney and Mexican vacations.

At the educational sessions, “unsurprisingly, with the budget being decimated for a lot of rewards programs, people are very interested in finding ways to save money and get more for their dollar,” said Pete Erickson, the show's managing director. “Just talking with our conference director, she said the interest this year was in how to do more with less.” From Tuesday through today, sessions focused on issues such as increasing motivation while reducing costs (using the Web to create recognition portals), and on justifying the return on investment for incentive programs.

On the trade show floor, the Disney Destinations exhibit proved to be particularly popular. “Disney is actually in a very aggressive investment and development mode,“ Erickson said. “They came [to the show] and announced that they're purchasing new cruise ships, renovating their theme parks, and building a new property near Washington, D.C. So they're in a spending mode, and I think that's caught the attention of a lot of people.“ While some travel suppliers are “sitting on the sidelines and waiting for the economy to turn around,“ Erickson continued, “Disney sees the recovery coming, and they want to be positioned to take advantage of it." 

The Mexico Tourism Board's booth is also seeing lots of traffic. “Mexico is a great value right now, and that's again where the real interest is,” Erickson said. “Mexico has been very aggressive with their marketing all summer long. They're trying to sort through some of the sensational publicity [caused by the Swine Flu] to get to corporate meeting planners and the guys here who represent some significant group travel programs." 

In terms of products, Erickson said he can't point to one particular merchandise category that attendees are keen to explore. “I couldn't say, for example, it's all about computers, or food, or apparel this year,“ he said. “Our buyers come with a specific price point in mind more than a specific product category. They might come to the show saying, 'I have $125 to spend on an employee recognition product,' and they could be looking at everything from outdoor grills to Tumi luggage." 

With about 10,000 attendees, “We're actually down in our attendance [by more than 10 percent],“ Erickson said, “but the exhibitors have been very positive in how they responded to the show. So many exhibitors thought they'd see a very gloomy event this year, but a lot of show attendees seemed to be very positive about 2010 and 2011, getting back on track with their companies, and using their incentive programs to jump-start that." 

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