Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thinking about the GIS attendance figures

Much is made of the fact that the national is the biggest event in the industry. It is. But, consider this...

The numbers are a little fuzzy, but show hosts said attendance was 14,780 or so. That's good, all things considered, but remember that two-thirds of those who attended were there to sell stuff to superintendents.

GIS hosts said there were approximately 5,750 "qualified buyers" attending. That includes superintendents, assistants, management company execs, owners, managers, architects, builders and anyone else who says they have "purchasing influence" for one or more facilities. Based on past breakdowns of who those qualified buyers are, I'd estimate about 2,500 actual superintendents -- the core of the market -- were in Orlando.

There are 15,800 or so golf facilities in the U.S. (we'll disregard Canadian and International attendees/courses to keep this simple). That means the show attracts only 16 percent of the primary customers nationwide.

(That said, if you look at the demographics of the superintendents who do attend, they clearly have higher-than-average budgets. So, that 16 percent who went to Orlando may command as much as 30 percent of all purchasing power in the U.S. market. That's why exhibitors still spend lots of money to be there.)

Yes, the show matters a lot...and attendance was surprisingly good. But, 84 percent of y'all didn't go to this year's national. A lot of us...including me...need to remember that the Big Show is a luxury that most facilities either can't afford or just don't care about because they're focused on surviving in the real world of today's golf market.


  1. It's always amazed me that people see a trade associations as a luxury. Considering that they are made up of "like minded" people with similar circumstances it would make sense that in these tough economic times you/we would band together more to find ways to ride this out together. For my way of thinking, now is the best time for an association to prove it's worth, when it's tough. Let's face it, how hard is it to stay in business when money is falling from the trees??

  2. Hmmm...GIS helped with my professional development since I wasn't a turfhead by degree, and the maximum overdrive networking added the real world component to the book learning. I'd say every Supt should try to go at least when the show is in their zone (East, Central, West).
    There's been some mighty inspirational folks speaking at GIS over the years and that boost is good for the person and where he/she works. Luxury, hmmmm, maybe a considered expense.

  3. PJ

    Bottom line bang for your buck...Just like the dues $320 for not much of anything. The show could be a great resource but the GCSAA wants even more cash from us to get in the door $150 I think with no pdi points, but if I give them $250 or $300 I can get 2.5 pdi points. Same show HMMMMM is all I can say. Keep up the great work Jonesy.

  4. The fact is that we're an industry of haves and have nots and also one of people who are self-directed and self-motivated to figure out a way to get education and training any way they can. The national isn't the only game in town for that anymore, but it's still the best game.

  5. Pat,

    I agree with you. The trade show was very quiet with actual Superintendents. Being an hour north of Orlando, we went all out this year. We brought in Assistants for education and the show for the week. That being said, we probably won't attend for another 3 years until it returns to Orlando. I think the same goes for why the guys from out west didn't attend. The days of 23,000+ in attendance are way over. However, I still think the education this year was fantastic, and despite a failing economy, the GCSAA staff did an excellent job filling, albeit small, trade show floor.

  6. Andrew: Exactly right. The paradigm has changed and we need to accept the "new" GIS for what it is. GCSAA has to regroup their business based on a smaller, more intense event.

  7. I don't get it. I don't understand why facilities think that the industry show is the obvious choice for items to cut out of their budgets. And furthermore, I don't understand why superintendents don't fight harder to keep their funding to attend the show, even if they have to convince their authorities that it is part of their compensation package. Good luck to those of you who try to stay current in this industry without taking advantage of everything the Industry Show has to offer. The networking, educational opportunities, and equipment/materials research opportunities are unmatched. Not to mention, your attendance is supporting the GCSAA. I'd like to know how many of us out there don't owe the association a little bit of gratitude for where they are in their careers. If we all answer that question honestly, then I think we would all understand the value of the show and the association.

  8. For Webgolf!!!

    Get this! In a world of pick your battles...With highly qualified young asst supers in the wings waiting for their chance to get YOUR job. They'll likely tell their new bosses to be that they don't even want to attend. They'll get their continuing education on their outdated desktop on the dial -up in the store-room/office that the super uses.

    I personally know half a dozen supers that were LAID_OFF during the winter. I'm sure the club won't mind footing the bill since they're "on vacation" anyway. Yeah...right. As the numbers bear out, for everyone that can attend there are five who can't...and.. they'd probably rather not fight for a benny that's a pipe dream these days for the majority. BTW after 20+ years in the industry, I attended this years show as a spousal guest of my wife. In short, don't judge those who are having their fingers stepped on while trying to hang on!