Canadian Organizers Seek to Overcome Strong Loonie

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Toronto, Canada – The Canadian dollar was picking up steam against its U.S. counterpart at the end of 2011, which wasn’t particularly good news for the dominion’s trade show industry.

Global changes have made Canada’s discounted dollar a distant memory and pulled the loonie – so named for the $1 coin with an image of a loon on it — to nearly dead even with the U.S. dollar. The result has been the end of the favorable exchange rate Americans enjoyed when exhibiting at, or attending, a trade show north of the border.

The Canadian industry is well aware of the challenge. In fact, participants at a recent forum held by the Canadian Association of Exposition Management (CAEM) called the burden of equality a bigger issue for the Canadian industry than figuring out social media strategies.

The resulting higher prices for U.S. organizers and exhibitors in Canada have been aggravated by the already fierce competition among U.S. venues. That competition has spurred a nagging overcapacity of convention centers and floor space in all of North America, according to Paul Woodward, managing director of UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry.

The panel, which was moderated by Barry Siskind, president of International Training & Management Company, concluded that the situation called for keeping proof of ROI as the top priority for Canadian show managers and venues – even more so than launching the bells-and-whistles of social media.

Panelists Bob MacGregor, managing director of Diversified Business Communications Canada, and Tourism Toronto President & CEO David Whitaker, saw the basic business of selling booth space as the bottom line. Convincing exhibitors that Canadian cities were capable of drawing good crowds of qualified buyers was considered the top task at hand.

The panelists and members of the audience brainstormed on ideas to put a further spark in Canada’s exhibition industry by adopting more-sophisticated floor plans and pricing models that command premiums for the most-visible locations.

The importance of attendance audits and stronger year-round branding were stressed. The conversation also touched on the importance of social media in show marketing, although it was seen as more effective in attracting new attendees while direct marketing worked better at keeping repeat visitors coming back.

Reach Serge Micheli, CAEM executive director, at (416) 787-9377 x224 or smicheli@caem.ca