Expo’s Top Cities Survey

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 1.48.25 PM

The results are in: Ask a trade show manager what his or her favorite place to hold an event is and most say Las Vegas.

What if you’d asked that same question 10 years ago? According to Expo’s Top Cities Survey, it would still have been Las Vegas.

Over the last two weeks of February, Expo surveyed 126 trade show managers about the best destinations and regions to hold events in and why. The fact that Las Vegas was No. 1 on the largest number of lists is little surprise. However, some of the other cities that have bounded to the top of the list this year were not anywhere close to the top when Expo asked what the answers would be if they had been asked the same question in 2004.

For instance, No. 2 on the list of favored cities to hold a trade show in this year is Phoenix, but if show managers had been asked the same question 10 years ago, they say it would have ranked only No. 5. That may be in large part because of the expansion of the Phoenix Convention Center and the development of several new hotels in downtown Phoenix that has taken place over the last decade.

Other than Phoenix, the usual suspects—Las Vegas, Chicago and Orlando—remained at the top of both lists, while only two other cities appear on the 2014 list of favorites that may not have been on many people’s 2004 lists, Anaheim and San Francisco.

When asked about the best regions in which to hold trade shows, the feedback remains nearly consistent over that 10-year period. Florida and the Northeast top the list of favored regions, followed by the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

There seems to be a bit of a disconnect between show managers’ sentiments about the best region and the best cities to hold shows in. For example, Las Vegas is at the top of most lists of favored cities, but its region, the Desert West, ranks further down the list, sixth.

Naturally, not every trade show is held in the largest destinations (in fact, nowhere close to even half of them are).

While they certainly did not make the top 10, cities like Atlantic City, N.J., Charlotte, N.C., and Nashville, Tenn., showed up on many surveys.

The criteria show managers use when deciding a good destination to hold a trade show in: Ease of access (close proximity to exhibitors’ homes as well as convenient, numerous flights in and out of the city), followed by venue size and cost and then reasonable hotel costs for attendees.

When asked which cities would be show managers’ second choice if they were to hold their events somewhere other than where they do now, the choices took on more of a “wish list” dimension with San Diego, Miami, Orlando and Las Vegas topping the list of choices.

Two cities that show managers say would have been on their list of favorites 10 years ago that did not make the cut in 2014 were Miami and Los Angeles.

What is your favorite city in which to hold an event?

  1. Las Vegas
  2. Phoenix
  3. Chicago
  4. Orlando
  5. (tie) Atlanta, Boston, New York
  6. (tie) Anaheim, Philadelphia
  7. San Diego
  8. San Francisco

Please rank the attributes of a destination that are most important for your show. (9 being most important and 1 being least important)*

  1. Ease of access…8.12
  2. Venue size…6.69
  3. Venue costs…6.48
  4. Hotel costs…5.27
  5. F&B costs…4.44
  6. Non-union venue…3.87
  7. Things to do in the city…3.81
  8. “Coolness” factor…3.31
  9. Familiarity…3.01

 If you had to answer the last question in 2004, how would you have responded?

  1. Florida…8.21
  2. Northeast…7.71
  3. Southeast (excluding Florida)…7.52
  4. Mid-Atlantic…7.23
  5. California…6.48
  6. Upper Midwest…6.04
  7. Desert West (including Las Vegas)…5.55
  8. Texas…5.52
  9. Mountain West…4.33
  10. Northwest…3.11

What would be your second choice for a favorite city in which to hold an event?

  1. San Diego
  2. Miami
  3. Orlando
  4. Las Vegas
  5. (tie) Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix
  6. Anaheim
  7. Dallas
  8. (tie) Boston, Denver, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco

With these attributes in mind, please rank your show’s current city. (9 being most important and 1 being least important)*

  1. Ease of access…7.47
  2. Venue size…7.29
  3. Venue costs…6.33
  4. F&B costs…4.79
  5. Hotel costs…4.71
  6. Non-union venue…4.21
  7. Things to do in city…3.81
  8. Familiarity…3.36
  9. “Coolness” factor…3.05

What would have been your first choice 10 years ago?

  1. Las Vegas
  2. Orlando
  3. Chicago
  4. New York
  5. Phoenix
  6. Atlanta
  7. (tie) Boston, Miami, San Diego
  8. (tie) Los Angeles, Philadelphia

On a scale of 1 to 10 (with10 being the highest), which region of the country is best for trade shows?*

  1. Florida…7.62
  2. Northeast…7.27
  3. Southeast (excluding Florida)…7.14
  4. Mid-Atlantic…6.91
  5. California…6.49
  6. Desert West (including Las Vegas)…6.12
  7. Upper Midwest…6.00
  8. Texas…5.67
  9. Mountain West…4.88
  10. Mid-South…4.29
  11. Northwest…3.61

With these attributes in mind, what would your show’s current city’s rank have been in 2004? (9 being most important and 1 being least important)*

  1. Ease of access…7.64
  2. Venue size…7.34
  3. Venue costs…6.51
  4. F&B costs…4.94
  5. Hotel costs…4.64
  6. Non-union venue…4.59
  7. Familiarity…3.53
  8. Things to do in city…3.29
  9. “Coolness” factor…2.52

Which of the following best describes your organization?

  • Association…51.6%
  • Integrated b-to-b media…13.5%
  • For-profit…34.9%

How big is your largest show?

  • Less than 50,000 net sq. ft….28.6%
  • 50,001-100,000 net sq. ft…23.8%
  • 100,001-200,000 net sq. ft….15.9%
  • Larger than 200,000 net sq. ft….31.7%

* = Average (of 126 responses)

Back to the issue

Posted by Michael Hart

Michael Hart is the executive editor of Expo. Reach him at mhart@accessintel.com.... View all articles by Michael Hart →