Events. Connect Travel, of Atlanta (a subsidiary of the UK-listed Tarsus exhibitions group), is acquiring four ‘summit’ events and a publishing brand from North American Journeys Inc (NAJ). Three summits (East, West and Orlando), Active America China, as well as the Inbound Report and TourOperatorLand. com will join the Connect Travel portfolio, which includes some similar travel industry events. Last year it acquired the eTourism Summit from NAJ.
Tarsus, which has a market cap of £380m, gives all the signs of a group that aims to diversify further beyond events into business information. Alone among the major exhibitions groups, it self-describes as “an integrated media company” and “an international business-to-business media group with interests in exhibitions, conferences, education, publishing and online media”. The 21-year-old exhibition organiser took its first major step into business information back in 2000 when it acquired the US-based Trade Show News Network (TSNN). That now claims to be the most widely-used events database with some 130k registered web users.
The question of whether exhibitions can benefit from integration with information services in any given sector is a familiar one. It is, presumably, being asked again at Informa, now the world’s largest exhibition organiser which is also a substantial business information provider. It feels like part of a discussion about just how exhibitions might pre-empt the digital disruption that has wrecked the business models of almost every other media channel.
For all the long-term global growth in exhibitions revenue, profit and venues, the future of trade shows may depend on extending their use of databases into business intelligence and procurement services. Even if cash-rich exhibitions did nothing more than develop exclusive data and information as value-added services for existing customers in their own markets, there may be good reasons to buy and build broader B2B media. Not ‘content marketing’ or trade news but valuable data and even workflow systems that customers might otherwise have to buy. Perhaps that is what Tarsus (and others) are thinking about.