LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The International Tire and Rubber Association has decided to make its World ITRA Expo a biennial event and hold a series of regional conferences in major cities on alternate years.
The 2001 Expo will be held as scheduled next April 19-21 at the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn., with the regional conference schedule set to begin in 2002. The Expo has been held annually for 43 consecutive years.
After 41 years in Louisville, ITRA moved the Expo in 1999 to Nashville attempting to reverse the decline in overall attendance in recent years.
However, total Expo attendance dropped 16.3 percent from 1998 to 1999 and 18.8 percent from 1999 to this year.
Some exhibitors said they wanted the Expo to continue on an annual basis, said Marvin Bozarth, ITRA executive director. But others "were pretty emphatic" in saying that the lack of new products to show every year and good market coverage through full dealer networks made an annual show unnecessary.
"It's a cost issue," he said, "and if they (exhibitors) don't have anything new to show, it's kind of hard to justify that on a yearly basis."
The results of surveys taken during and after the Expo and at meetings with members also showed that most ITRA members attend the Expo every two or three years, said ITRA President Robert W. Sherwood of Bayamon, Puerto Rico-based Tristani Retreading Corp. & Rubber Industries Inc.
"Times are changing, so we've got to change with the times and develop a program that our members in the industry need," Mr. Sherwood said.
The decision to cut back on the Expo was not difficult, Mr. Bozarth said. Dealers face more and more demands on their time as manufacturers hold dealer meetings and other events, usually during the first few months of the year, he said.
"A lot of people are overcome with the number of events they have to attend in a year," Mr. Bozarth said.
Market research also has shown that some people don't attend any trade shows, so ITRA decided regional conferences might be a more attractive alternative for them, Mr. Bozarth said.
"The conferences will consist of workshops and seminars, as well as training on new technology, business services and process methods," Mr. Sherwood said.
ITRA's committees will put together the regional conferences based on industry trends, and the ITRA board will have final approval of the topics and schedule, Mr. Bozarth said.
There will be three or four conferences of two to three days in length each year, he added, but the topics, dates and locations have yet to be determined.
ITRA also is "planning an even more aggressive campaign" to offer its Commercial Tire Service (CTS) Instructor and Technician Training and Certification Program through regional training seminars conducted in conjunction with the Expo, the regional conferences and one-of-a-kind education programs in 2002.
Expo-related income has provided "a considerable part of our revenue," Mr. Bozarth said. But, he added, "we've had a lot of growth in our revenue from our training programs, and we think we can generate a good deal more as these programs develop."
ITRA said more than 3,000 instructors and technicians have completed the CTS program in the three years since it began.
Mr. Bozarth added ITRA is developing a program to make tire service personnel aware of Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. The course will consist of workbooks and a series of videotapes produced for ITRA or provided by manufacturers. ITRA hopes to introduce the new course at this year's International Tire Expo in Las Vegas.
Also under consideration is a certification program for tire recycling, Mr. Bozarth said, that would be unique in the industry.
"We'll use it to train people that are coming up in that industry (tire recycling)," he said, "so we don't get people in some bureaucracy making rules that they don't have a clue about."
Another advantage of holding the Expo on alternate years is the ITRA staff will have more time for training and to develop more programs dealers want, Mr. Bozarth said.
He noted that training programs may be more important to dealers than a trade show, and therefore ITRA's regional training conferences can make up for any revenues lost because of the show's new biennial schedule.