Skift Take

It's surprising that more destinations don't create virtual trade shows like this. Although with virtual reality looming on the horizon and growing numbers of millennials moving into decision-making roles, that could motivate more cities to build these platforms in coming years.

Spanish tourism boards, hotel chains, meeting venues, and conference organizers are promoting their products and services to North American meeting planners this week during the fully virtual Meet In Spain 2015 trade show.

Without anyone getting out of their office chairs, North American planners can search through 34 Spanish companies listed on the Meet In Spain portal, including the Madrid and Sevilla Convention Bureaus, Valencia Convention & Exhibition Centre, and Barcelona-based H10 Hotels.

Upon choosing who they want to meet, event professionals then request appointments for a specified time slot during the 3-day event running from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern Standard, which is convenient for both sides of the Atlantic.

When a Spanish travel company accepts a planner’s request to meet, the Meet In Spain portal automatically messages both parties with links to connect directly on Skype during the allotted time.

Everyone is required to supply a Skype address during the registration process.

This is so easy. Now in its fifth year, the online buyer/supplier trade show offers a cost-effective way for participants to network, in between the live B2B tourism industry events taking place annually in Spain, including FITUR in Madrid and IBTM World in Barcelona.

“It also allows smaller companies to engage with North American buyers who might not have the budget to attend larger events like IBTM or IMEX,” says Tom Milanovic, marketing manager at the Tourist Office of Spain in Chicago, which developed the virtual conference.

The big tech innovation for 2015 was the shift to a mobile-first platform. According to Milanovic, the majority of North American planners participating in the online event are moving toward mobile devices to network with the Spanish executives.

Virtual Face2Face

There are four Spain Tourist Offices in the U.S., located in Chicago, New York, Miami and Los Angeles. Together, they and 33 Spain-based hospitality and tourism companies all have trade floor “booths” positioned in a grid on the Meet In Spain homepage.

When a planner clicks on one of those, they’re presented with a square banner reading: “Ask For A Virtual Face2Face Meeting.”

Below that, each supplier provides product information, relative web links, photos and videos. That makes it convenient for planners to research each company before reaching out with a request to Skype.

All of the information, photos and videos are presently housed and viewed from within the Meet In Spain portal, except for the actual Skype meetings themselves. Milanovic says eventually the entire engagement experience will live within a fully self-contained digital platform.

“The technology as it stands now is more cutting edge than bleeding edge, which is a good thing because bleeding edge often doesn’t work that well,” he explains. “This kind of networking framework is actually not entirely brand new. It’s been used before for things like job fairs, but it is innovative in this context.”

And just like at a live conference, buyers and suppliers can meet spontaneously on the sidelines via the private and public messaging functionality integrated inside the user interface.

Meet In Spain 2015 started yesterday and ends tomorrow.

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Tags: madrid, meetings, spain

Photo credit: Homepage for the online Meet In Spain 2015 buyer/supplier event. Tourist Office of Spain

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