The 2010 International Poultry Expo was by any measure a success but with reservations. Attendance exceeded 19,000, up approximately 5% from 2009. Admittedly, optimism regarding profitability for the remainder of the year was evident but this was not in itself sufficient to boost attendance. An especially encouraging sign was the large Latino contingent emphasizing the hemispheric reach of the annual IPE.
During the past decade the IPE has been impacted by a number of factors beyond the control of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association. A proliferation of regional and international "VIV Shows" during the past decade has clearly reduced the exclusive nature of the IPE resulting in exhibitors having to make trade-offs with respect to participation. Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East are more significant growth areas compared to North America. This has resulted in greater interest by suppliers of equipment and services in attending exhibitions in these regions. Difficulty in obtaining U.S. visitor's visas has also impacted international participation, especially from the very countries from where we would wish to attract attendees.
The decision by the USPOULTRY to affiliate with the AFIA has certainly contributed to increased attendance and participation by both manufacturers of processing, packing and feed milling equipment which is expensive to transport, set up and display.
Confining the exhibition to the A and B Halls of the GWCC in 2010 facilitated visits to booths. Convenience was further served by clustering of similar products between and within the two halls expediting comparisons among product offerings.
A disappointing feature of the 2010 IPE was the non-participation of many regular exhibitors. Egg producers were slighted by the absence of all domestic manufacturers and suppliers of cages and graders. It is apparent that the high cost of exhibiting has resulted in collusion among companies in related fields to adopt a "one-in-two years" attendance pattern. If this practice is extended to processing equipment and other segments of the allied industry the value of the exhibition will be seriously undermined.
Effectively, the annual "Atlanta Show," as this veteran of at least 30 successive events can attest, is now less than a two-day event. Attendees fly in on Wednesday morning and leave on Thursday night. This limits time for "browsing" the show floor to discover new exhibitors and to gain an appreciation of the wealth of knowledge available from personal interaction, displays and videos. The short duration of the IPE is obvious in that the highest concentration of attendance at hospitality suites and receptions takes place on Wednesday night.
The organizers of the annual IPE might consider the following suggestions to increase attendance on the floor to justify the considerable investment made by exhibitors:
- Encourage participation by as broad a range of exhibitors as possible.
- Strategies will have to be developed to limit extension of the one-in-two year programs now practiced by prominent manufacturers.
- The IPE might be scheduled for later in the year. Traditionally January weather can be very cruel in Atlanta. Over the years this commentator has experienced ice storms and extremely low temperatures coupled with high wind. Fortunately 2010 was an exception with balmy unseasonable weather but sandwiched between severe storms which may otherwise have coincided with the program
- Reduce the peripheral programs running concurrently with the exhibition since these detract from attendance on the show floor and is reflected in lower activity in booths
- Consider changing the days of the week for the IPE to commence the program on a Tuesday and terminate on Thursday. Flying out of Atlanta on a Friday afternoon is at best a difficult experience without having to contend with January weather causing delays and cancellations. Booth attendance on Friday is becoming progressively lower. Changing the day sequence to allow three full days would be more beneficial for exhibitors and attendees alike.
- Improve the catering arrangements during the IPE. The various kiosks and stands charge exorbitant prices for limited selection. The restaurant adjacent to the entrance to the B Hall had long lines and limited supplies of food on the buffet on Wednesday. Many attendees now leave the GWCC and eat at the CNN Food Court, highlighting deficiencies in on-site catering and value
- Discourage commercial presentations by exhibitors in adjacent hotels during the hours when the IPE is open.
- The USPOULTRY should reconsider their association with their hotel booking agency. Service over the years has deteriorated and attempting to make changes or to confirm reservations is extremely difficult. Surely Atlanta has a functional hotel and accommodation bureau.
Attendance at the IPE is approaching a cost of $1,500 for travel and subsistence, not counting the loss of time during the event and the need to make up work on return to offices, plants and farms. The IPE must offer attendees a commensurate return on time and money through acquisition of knowledge, contacts and information. In these days of consolidation, restricted budgets and the internet, virtual travel is becoming an attractive alternative to attendance at the IPE. Both organizers and exhibitors should be cognizant of the changes which are occurring in our industry and the business environment and should adapt the exhibition program and structure of the IPE accordingly.