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Looking ahead to RDA exhibitions in 2017

Looking ahead to RDA exhibitions in 2017

Trade exhibitions remain an indispensable method for business development, and are especially relevant in our sector where personal relationships remain critically important.

Dr Patrick Patridge offers a preview of the coach and group trade exhibitions taking place in Germany this year.

In uncertain times such as these – with forthcoming Brexit negotiations, terrorism acts, economic shifts and demographic change – safety and security are now uppermost in customers’ minds. Trust is an indispensible asset and trust develops and grows when we meet, interact and do business with colleagues who share a common business interest. 

The RDA Exhibitions in Friedrichshafen from 20-21 April, and in Cologne from 4-5 July 2017 are Europe’s largest purchasing, sales and innovations platforms for the coach and group tourism sectors. Their unique coach and group focus is probably one of the best arguments for UK tourism companies, group tourism suppliers and coach holiday destinations to exhibit at this year’s exhibitions. 

RDA Exhibition participation is open to non-RDA members, and the trade-only exhibition locations in Friedrichshafen – on scenic Lake Constance at the German-Austrian-Swiss Border Triangle, and in the cathedral city of Cologne – are situated in the heart of major group tourism catchment areas. The exhibition centres boast modern, bright and state-of-the-art exhibition halls. 

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Exhibitor invitations and registration documents for the RDA Exhibitions in Friedrichshafen and in Cologne are now available to download from the RDA website and provide detailed information about exhibition halls, stand formats, promotional opportunities and prices. This year, the RDA – International Coach Tourism Federation is also inviting RDA members to its 65th Annual General Meeting on the afternoon of 19 April 2017 in Friedrichshafen. 

Awaiting UK exhibitors in April in Friedrichshafen are travel and tour operator companies seeking early offers and much sought-after services. In July in Cologne – the largest international shop window for the coach and group tourism sectors – exhibitors have an excellent opportunity to present both established and new products. At both shows, exhibitors can assess at first-hand, current developments, and industry trends.

More than 78 per cent of RDA Exhibition trade visitors in 2016 were decision-makers, ie buyers or company owners, managing directors and authorised representatives from more than 3,000 companies. 

The 2016 RDA-Workshop Visitor Survey revealed that: 

 over three quarters stated that they had placed orders at the RDA Exhibition

 group travel bookings are being made even further in advance 

 over 90 per cent stated that they would “definitely” or “most probably” attend the exhibition once again. 

The RDA Exhibitions provide UK destinations and supplier companies with unique business opportunities and an excellent chance to present their group tourism products and services on an international stage. 

The RDA Exhibitions 2017 offer UK exhibitors a tried-and-trusted platform to:

 meet coach travel and group holiday tour operators

 network with potential clients

 nurture existing contacts and generate effective synergies

 develop and close business directly with decision-makers

 establish or expand presence in the German and European markets

 promote and sell UK coach and group tourism destinations, products, wholesale packages and services 

 meet new European group travel suppliers

 survey current market developments, industry trends and coach tourism innovations. 

The RDA Exhibitions offers comprehensive visitor acquisition and exhibition communications, including visitor advertising, online appointments, RDA Exhibition App, exhibitor coaching, trade press releases and a multitude of complementary activities to ensure that everyone who participates is well informed and well prepared.

Group travel is highly popular among British and German consumers alike – older people, clubs and associations in particular – because group travel is good for social cohesion, team spirit and general wellbeing. Whether by coach, rail, ship or aeroplane – a package trip in the company of others offers lots of advantages to special interest groups and senior holidaymakers. International trade buyers who wish to attract such customers need experienced UK and European partners and a sound international platform for business dealings, research, communications and exchange.

According to the respected annual German FUR Travel Analysis, modern tour coaches play a central role in a mix of holiday transport options. Some 60 per cent of German tourists, for example, who fly abroad also use coach travel in their holiday destinations, including for excursions, city tours, round trips and hotel transfers. Coach use during cruise holidays is also high accounting for 54 per cent of travel package services provided; and coach & rail holidays boast 23 per cent coach usage. Coaches and groups are a significant market and for many, the most important element to building a sustainable local tourism economy and making visitor attractions into successful businesses.

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At Visit Kent RDA 2016 Stand (from left to right): Dr. Patrick Patridge, Tourism Marketing & PR; Alanna Kite, Visit Kent; Joël Fauquette, Eurotunnel le Shuttle; Richard Eberhardt, President RDA; Dieter Gauf, CEO, RDA; Therese Heslop, Canterbury Cathedral; Stef Harlow, Leeds Castle & Gardens and Theresa Foley, P+O Ferries.

Coach holiday demand in Germany has remained quite stable for over a decade at around 7 per cent of the overall holiday market (5 million holidays of over 5 days’ duration in 2015). In addition, 1.25 million combination flight/coach trips were taken abroad in 2015. 

Enquiries and bookings for 2017-2018 are showing a strong demand for culture, history, study and active programmes including walking, cycling, golf and archaeology. Cookery courses and wellness are also proving popular along with holidays offering wellness and relaxation.

Everyone in our fast-moving travel industry wants to be up-to-date and tries their best to keep up-to-speed in order to generate, capture and satisfy this customer demand. The RDA Exhibitions TrendForum has established itself as a trendsetter for our industry. Whether marketing, sales, research, safety or online communications – a new, topical theme is scheduled at the TrendForum programme each half hour. Make sure that you include a visit to the TrendForum as part of your RDA Exhibition 2017 participation because it also serves as a magnet for exhibitors and visitors alike – a place where spontaneous business introductions and ad hoc contacts also occur. 

Exhibitors, too, may also contribute either as TrendForum speakers – with a presentation on a particular area of expertise, as participants – to learn something new about a topical issue or as discussion panel members – to share and debate with colleagues, federation partners and industry experts. So please do not be shy, take advantage of what this platform can offer you, your company or your destination.

Group tourism federations in Europe also bank on stronger international contacts and co-operation in order to succeed in an increasingly competitive and insecure global business environment. Leading European coach and group travel federations are organised in the European Alliance for Coach Tourism (EACT). These include, among others, the CTA – Coach Tourism Association (UK), CPT – Confederation of Passenger Transport (UK), European Tourism Association (ETOA), the Coach Transport and Tourism Council of Ireland (CTTCI) and the RDA-International Coach Tourism Federation (RDA). EACT will participate at the RDA Exhibitions once again in 2017.

This year will not be an easy one for tour operators according to informed commentators. Customers are apparently delaying once again as in 2016, with their holiday plans for 2017. One thing is clear; even in times of global crisis Britons and Germans will not give up on their holidays but are either changing holiday destinations or types of holiday taken. So opportunities still exist, not least for package coach and group travel to and from the UK. Against this background coach tourism operators and group tourism destinations and suppliers need to fine-tune their business models and rise above current crises so that they can celebrate positive and sustainable business results. The RDA Exhibitions are the best places for them to do so!