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The history of business tourism destinations

The business tourism ‘destination’, as we saw in Chapter 2, dates back to pre-history. Individual business trips linked to trading have been taking place for, literally, thousands of years. In the Middle Ages we saw the rise of trade fairs in Europe, with their own infrastructure of services. However, it is only in the last hundred years that we have seen the rise of convention tourism, beginning in the USA.

This was an innovation because business tourism was no longer simply trade-related. In this case the destination was central to the trip rather than just being a ‘backdrop’ for the business activities. During the 1980s and 1990s we have seen the rise of incentive travel where the destination is the principal attraction and focus of the trip.

Destinations have realized that business tourism brings great benefits and every year new destinations try to attract convention, exhibition and incentive travel business. The reasons for this are not hard to identify, for business tourism has a number of advantages over leisure tourism. As they are usually not paying the bill, business tourists tend to spend two or three times as much money per day as leisure tourists.

However, they are more likely to spend their money with transnational companies so that a higher proportion of their expenditure may be lost to the local community. Business tourists demand a high level of personal service, so accommodating them is a labor-intensive activity which creates more jobs than leisure tourism.

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Business tourism spreads its benefits widely around local enterprises because of its demand for everything from florists to secretarial services, photographers to security people. Business tourism tends to be less seasonal than leisure tourism, and it is complementary to leisure tourism in that it: is in full swing in the months which are the off-peak season for leisure tourism fills hotels on weekdays but leaves them empty for the leisure tourist at the weekends.

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