Comparable stats from other industries (in conjunction with DEMA’s figures) seem to indicate that the broad appeal of a “traditional” trade show is waning. There are some notable exceptions, but several years of experience watching attendance at and sales at DEMA suggest the dive industry is not one of those exceptions.
I had a unique opportunity this past November to visit Orlando and attend our industry’s biggest trade show wearing several hats. I was not tied down to one booth — as in past years — but wandered the floor, made several presentations, and generally “mingled.”
As a travel product marketplace, DEMA is sans pareil. However, despite some brave attempts at making a visual impact from many of the more mainstream scuba services (punctuated by several lack-luster booths from one or two major players), this year’s show showed all the vibrancy of an old dog too tired to play fetch. Saturday, for example, the show curled up and napped.
From conversations before the show, during and after, I believe the industry has faith in consumer shows still — albeit with a slightly updated approach compared to the old “put up a shingle and wait for the customers” — but a trade show as expensive, as regional, and as poorly attended as DEMA… well, the jury seems to be out.
N.B. DEMA stands for the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association.