In September last year, there were over a million visitors to South Africa (1 033 426). This sounds really good, but dig deeper. A little under a third of these visitors were day visitors who probably arrived, shopped and left the same day. Do not get me wrong, this is good for retail business close to the borders. Dig deeper, of the remainder, 173 497 were from overseas; 484 139 from the SADC countries; 16 575 from 'other' African countries and 2 222 unspecified. Dig deeper, 'only' 6 184 came for business. Thus from the top-line figure of visitors to our country in September last year, 'only' 0.6% came for business.
As an exhibition organiser the most common question we receive is, "How many visitors will there be?" The Exhibition and Event Association of Southern Africa (EXSA) Organisers Code of Conduct states that, "Members shall be liable to record and publish attendance visitor figures at exhibitions accurately and to issue attendance figures to exhibitors on request"
. Of course the number of visitors represents the pool of potential purchasers and thus is the currency of exhibitions (along with the number of exhibitors). So, exhibitors must then ask to view such figures. However the bottom line figure should be unpacked, examined and understood.
The presented top level figure is not usually accompanied by a breakdown, so organiser staff, exhibition staff, and children may be included. How many couples attend Lifestyle Expo's together, the visitor numbers will count as two, however in reality they are in effect a 'single' purchasing unit.
Numbers are important - but absolute visitor figures are not everything. The most important characteristic is that of visitor quality. So exhibitors must use available tools and technologies to ensure that they see and talk to the right decision makers at an exhibition and ask the right question to interpret and understand the numbers.