Latest News
HomeMs. STANISLAVA BLAGOEVA-DUSCHELL From high tech to high touch – the importance of directcommunication, meetings and exhibition industry___

Ms. STANISLAVA BLAGOEVA-DUSCHELL From high tech to high touch – the importance of directcommunication, meetings and exhibition industry___


President of ETTFA

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

It is my greatest pleasure to address this prestigious forum on behalf of one of the most talked about and the most controversial segments of our industry – the


Exhibitions is something most of us love to hate. In my professional career I have met both dedicated believers and fearsome critics of the event industry. It is very

rear that a specialist in event management is invited to speak at international forums. And I would like to thank and congratulate our colleagues from WTO for the utmost courage displayed.

Meetings and exhibitions, as we all know, are and will be one of the most powerful marketing and communication tools in the industry of travel and tourism. I understand and realise the boldness of my statement. But if I didn’t believe in that I wouldn’t have agreed to speak today.

The word communication has its origin in the latin communicatio –the act or fact of communicating, interchange of thoughts or opinions, by conference or other means.

Exhibitions are a communication tool, as direct mail, sponsorship, corporate workwear, body language telephone marketing and trade journals are also important

business to business communication tools. Exhibitions though are a more specialised and complicated form of communication.

Exhibitions industry has its deep roots in the human history. With the development of trade links between the nomadic tribes and later between states and continents

the necessity of temporary or permanent meeting places provoked the birth of the first fairs and fair centres in the world. These were the places where people met and

sell/exchange their produce. From the very first primitive gatherings during the medieval ages slowly emerged the first organised annual trade event in south of France.

Direct communication at its basic level was crucial. It was only and mainly during these annual events that people had the opportunity to meet and exchange goods and merchandise.

Today there are industrial trade centres of vast proportions. The exhibition industry boosts over ……sqm a year in space and over……$us expenditure. Major urban

centres have become meetings and exhibitions focal point. European city destinations such as Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, London, Madrid, Milano, etc. Are the heart of the European exhibition industry. Events naturally increase the inbound traffic to the destination. They have a significant impact on the local economy not only through the traffic of business travel created, but through employing the local

community to provide services to the event industry.

Exhibitions and events today are the place where most often the face to face communication between industry professionals takes place. When we attempt to discuss the hi tech and high touch approach we should be ready to address the issue at its every angle.

1. With the boom of the latest communication technologies, the pool of possibilities that a marketing person can choose from, has widely diversified and multiplied.

Communication tools such as printed and digital media, various publications, increased Internet access and strong web presence, TV and other visual image translation methods send thousands of marketing messages per second. The

consumer and the trade are bombarded with pre-packaged communication solutions.

Is the event industry ready to cope? There is no simple answer to that question.

Exhibitions and meetings are:

– Time consuming – average of 8 months are spent on preparing for an event.

– Effort consuming – to prepare and carry out a major project involves an

average team of 10 – 20 coordinators

– Skills demanding – different skills are put together to achieve a positive result

from an event

Sense and sensibility. Events are all about using all your senses to communicate properly the messages to all the others around.

– the ultimate face to face communication. Face to face also stimulates two important neurotransmitters, dopamine, which enhances pleasure and serotonin to reduce worry..

– Where the high touch of human interaction is the most important part of the project

While any other communication tool offers fairly simple and time and effort saving solution, exhibitions and meetings are still heavy on structure. Recently there has been an ongoing debate over virtual events vs real events, online and onground exhibitions. More and more business people prefer the comfort of their own office, rather then the uncertainty of an exhibition environment.

Have we lost our human ability to create, connect and communicate with each other? The threat to travel exhibition organisers from ‘virtual trade fairs’ we believe is nonexistent.

The European tourism trade fairs association commissioned and conducted a oneyear study of both physical and virtual exhibitions. The findings show that Internet expos are up to seven times more cost effective, easy to access and free from the logistical headaches that face any traditional fair. But, while market share for online fairs is increasing, the report shows clear evidence that their physical counterparts still outstrip them at the most fundamental level.

Exhibitors need the human touch and that’s the one thing the Internet cannot offer.

People prefer to negotiate face-to-face, read one another’s body language. This is impossible online.

While maintaining the confident image, many exhibition organisers nevertheless have detailed knowledge of their high-tech competitors. Meanwhile, among showgoers, the aftershock of sept 11th gave rise to uncertainty: might virtual fairs, safer, cheaper and more time-efficient to run and attend than real ones, soon become the better option? Certainly the spectrum of virtual shows has caused sleepless nights in the travel expo industry.

According to the published in 2002 report, virtual fairs offer some tremendous advantages to visitors and exhibitors alike – attractions with which physical fairs cannot compete. Besides obvious savings in time and travel expenditure, the absence of materials means that exhibiting online costs a fraction of the ‘real world’price. The scope for each exhibitor is seemingly limitless (and not measured in square meters); a single stand can hold seminars, competitions, product demos and conversations simultaneously. And the 24/7 nature of the Internet means that visitors who would be unable to attend a physical fair can visit online.

There are also fewer logistical problems.

The biggest advantage, however, is that a decentralised trade fair held in cyberspace is far more likely to ride out waves of economic uncertainty.

Despite all of this, physical exhibition organisers remain confident that they will retain a comfortable lead – and their clients appear to agree.

Trevor Foley, director general of the association of exhibition organisers, concurs.

Organisers do not feel the need to go virtual because the human species needs human contact, he says. Anyone who thinks that computers can replace this is


With physical fairs enjoying steady growth and their virtual counterparts yet to mount a coherent offensive, it seems unlikely that any collision will take place in the

foreseeable future. At ettfa we believe that it is and will be a question of working together. The benefits offered by virtual fairs can never replace those of face-to-face

dealings, but they can greatly enhance on ground exhibitions. Outlining the internet’s ability to provide multi-lingual information day and night, hotel booking and carrental online and image improvement. Organisers also use the Internet to cut down on the time needed to input data, by posting online registration forms, online stand

bookings, online payment and online badge booking for participants to fill out themselves. Real life exhibitions are looking on virtual fairs as the next enhancement

of what they’ve already got.

Those organisers who take up the challenge of merging cyberspace with flesh and blood in one trade fair have everything to gain.

Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.