NASHVILLE, Tenn.-Approximately 2,150 showgoers and exhibitors turned out for the 44th World ITRA Expo, in Nashville, April 19-21-the last such gathering scheduled for two years.
The International Tire & Rubber Association (ITRA), the show's sponsor, has decided to hold the event every other year, filling in with regional seminars for dealers and retreaders during off years.
No date or location has been determined for the next World Tire Expo in 2003, but ITRA is looking at three sites: Louisville, Ky., the traditional home of the show, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and New Orleans. The first of its upcoming regional seminars is being planned for February 2002 at a still-to-be-announced location, possibly in or near Palm Springs, Calif.
ITRA Executive Director Marvin Bozarth said he was pleased by this year's turnout, even though attendance fell about 21 percent from last year's show-continuing a decline that has occurred the past few years.
The 2000 show drew 2,731 attendees, down 18.8 percent from 1999's Expo.
This year, 154 exhibitors took up about 41,000 square feet of the convention center at Nashville's sprawling Opryland Hotel. That was down about 26.8 percent from last year's 56,000 -sq.-ft. total and 194 exhibitors.
But despite the show's smaller size and reduced turnout, Mr. Bozarth said he received favorable comments from most exhibitors, who pronounced the event a success from the standpoint of sales and customer contacts.
ITRA's executive director said he was relieved at the number of exhibitors and attendees who took part-considering the uncertainty of the economy.
Nevertheless, the fact that show planners had increased the number of hotel rooms reserved this year in anticipation of a greater turnout has left the association financially responsible for a still-to-be-determined number of so-called ``room nights,'' which some estimates have placed as high as 2,000. Show officials believe this number is high, pointing out that some of the association's unneeded rooms undoubtedly were rented by other hotel guests.
Once hotel and association officials agree on the number of room nights for which ITRA is accountable, they will begin negotiating the amount that the association will have to pay, said Thomas M. Raben, ITRA's newly elected president. No matter how these negotiations turn out, he said the Expo will make money and ITRA will remain solvent.
Mr. Raben, president of Raben Tire Co. in Evansville, Ind., said show planners had thought it necessary to increase the number of hotel rooms blocked for this year's show because increased attendance was anticipated and since the association ran short of rooms in 1999 and 2000, despite the less-desirable dates of those shows.
In the case of ITRA's two previous Nashville gatherings, show planners were forced to settle for later starting dates in June and May respectively-months when many dealers and retreaders are typically on family vacations or busy with other activities.
This year, Mr. Raben said, ITRA got a starting date more to its liking and show planners increased the number of reserved hotel rooms only to find that the economy soured, probably discouraging some dealers and retreaders from attending. ``Tire dealers are like everybody else'' and are not immune to the negative effects of an economic downturn, he pointed out.