New Orleans to rejoin DEMA Show rotation in 2020

A panoramic view of the DEMA Show 2015 floor

The dive industry’s pre-eminent trade show will return to the Big Easy in 2020, according to Tom Ingram, Diving Equipment and Marketing Association executive director.

The announcement was made during DEMA’s membership meeting at last week’s convention in Orlando, Florida.

Ingram told DeeperBlue.com during a brief chat at the DEMA Show that the regular rotation between Orlando and Las Vegas would continue until 2020:

“We’ve been trying for years to get back to New Orleans, and there’s never been an opening. We couldn’t do it, there was no way to do it.

“We also had the concern of course that we’re in the fall, and that’s hurricane season, it’s an issue for us, that issue remains, so we can’t really change that one, and also the hotels are expensive, but we’ve negotiated a pretty good rate for the hotels and we couldn’t get the New Orleans Convention Center any sooner than 2020.”

Ingram said DEMA is having some additional discussions with New Orleans to make that venue into a third city in the regular rotation:

“So we anticipate going back every few years — we don’t know what that is yet, but we’ll keep Orlando and Las Vegas in the rotation and we will also put New Orleans in, and the board has authorized us to go back and look at other cities as well, and we’ve been approached by some really exciting places that might be fun for the attendees and the exhibitors.”

The attendees and exhibitors always tell DEMA in their post-show surveys that the city doesn’t matter “and they lie,” Ingram said with a laugh:

“So we know it does, but you know what? The numbers don’t change [between Orlando and Vegas] and when you go to Las Vegas it’s a different group, you’re getting from Asia, you’re getting from the West Coast of the U.S., but the numbers are almost identical.”

As for this year’s DEMA Show, Ingram said while first-day attendance numbers were down by four people compared to 2015, the convention actually grew by 396 first-day attendees compared to the last time DEMA was in Orlando in 2013:

“So the numbers are holding, everything’s looking good from a first-day standpoint at least. . . . Florida is always a great walk-in state so we always get lots of dive professionals coming in when we’re in Orlando, and I would anticipate that we’re gonna see that again this year.”

Exhibit space sales were identical to last year in Las Vegas, and one up from Orlando in 2013, according to Ingram. When asked whether the exhibit floor seemed a bit smaller than before, he said:

“Everybody always says that, but we don’t vary much in attendance or in exhibit spaces from year to year, and I attribute that to a fairly onerous sort of process and documentation that we require of our buyers before they come into the show, so essentially they’re pre-qualified to attend the show. And so what we hear is, ‘Well, we think the numbers are down, but the quality of the person is good.’”

DEMA Show 2014 in Las Vegas was one of the fastest 50 growing shows in the United States, and also one of the largest of 250 trade shows in the U.S., according to Ingram, who added:

“So we are holding our own as an industry event, and doing really well, and I attribute it to the pre-qualification process.”

One thing that has changed in recent years is a slight increase in the number of international exhibitors, which now comprise about 24 percent of the floor space at the convention, according to Ingram. He added:

“One of the things that’s happened this year is that DEMA spent a great deal of time, over the past year and a half, board and committees, really looking at a different direction for the association. . . . We’ve been the same for forever, I guess, for the longest time, certainly since the time I came in 2002, but we had to face the fact that the world has changed and we’re not in 2002 anymore, and so we have to look at our direction.

“DEMA’s mission actually changed, and it’s been fairly recent. As a result of that, we’ve been able to take that cue and use it to change the way that we approach our business from an association point of view and also from the show.

“So our new mission is bringing businesses together to grow the diving industry worldwide, so worldwide there’s growth involved in that and there’s brining folks together which of course is the very definition of an association which is what we are.”

Ingram noted that DEMA up until recently had never declared it was a worldwide organization.

“We’ve always been [a worldwide organization], we’ve always done things, but we’ve never come out and said that, so for us, I think it’s a great opportunity to expand that international market. We’re looking at different ways that we can do that, including data collection.

“Earlier this year, we actually collected data from Canada for the first time, so we actually have Canadian diver data that DEMA’s never had. We’ve reached out into Asia and into Europe and we’re looking at other ways that we can expand our reach a little bit, expand the brand, but also do more service to grow that industry in that part of the world. It’s not like we want to start a show there, . . . but we really want to have the opportunity to understand more about that marketplace and help those in that marketplace understand it more, too.”