The travel industry’s profit margins may be thin, but its entertainment margins may be one of the world’s best. That was particularly true at a travel technology conference called TRAMS Technology & Marketing University held in Las Vegas a few years ago–right next door to the International Lingerie Show.
We’re not talking white underpants here. As I walked down the last of a series of hallways in the Las Vegas Rio Hotel & Casino that supposedly led to my TRAMS meeting, I hesitated. I found myself walking past a gauntlet of standup posters provocative even by Vegas standards. What the marketer in me thought was the most effective was an understated poster (given the context) that was a close-up of a just a tidbit of a scene in a boudoir — a woman’s foot in a high-heeled, black sling-back sandal, the strap of a some lacy bit of lingerie clearly being dropped on to the plush carpet and the slogan: “The toys you need after the lingerie hits the floor.” It was subtle, suggestive and crystal clear.
I was fairly certain I had walked down the wrong hallway, but just before I turned back, I stopped to admire what was essentially a Marie Antoinette mini-dress, a really delightful confection of pale blue silk and a lot of white ruffles and lace. I would never have thought of combining a towering white pompadour of a hairdo with thigh-high white leather boots, but I must say it worked. In that fashion-pondering pause, I caught sight of a small, rather shy-looking sign directing me to TRAMS.
I continued down a hallway past doors that gave me a glimpse into vast halls containing displays of wisps of lace in every color from pale pink to deep black. One was shielded by a sign that politely requested that visitors not enter if what lay beyond might offend them. I kept on going. I overheard tantalizing snippets of conversation as I walked by. One woman delivered what was clearly an oft-repeated branding line about her product, whose name I didn’t entirely catch but it ended in glow. To use it you “heat it to skin temperature, apply it to your favorite body part and …” I was left hanging as she moved out of earshot.
Lee Rosen, then the president of TRAMS, took it all in stride — well, he almost did. He admitted during his introductory remarks that he walked right into one woman because he was so absorbed by the scene around him.
More than one TRAMS attendee complimented him on pairing TRAMS with the lingerie show, thinking that coincidence was intentional — and asked him to do the same next year. Rosen told attendees that during the setup for TRAMS means he is always looking around for Dan Palley, his CTO, but it seemed to him that that was the case more than ever on the set up day for TRAMS 2007. Rosen later admitted that he may have exaggerated Dan’s absences somewhat. A bit later in the show, two young women, clearly models from the event next door, showed up at the TRAMS registration desk. “May I help you?” Rosen asked politely, ever the gentleman. The two smiled back at him. “Oh, we’re looking for Dan,” they said. “He was over at our show and said you had a lot of cool computer stuff here and invited us over!”
There were lots of conversations in the bathrooms that the two shows shared, but perhaps the best exchange I heard reported was when a woman with a TRAMS badge looked at two women who clearly were attending the lingerie show. In one of the great understatements of the week, she said, “You’re not travel agents, are you.”
The lingerie show was mostly an entertaining diversion to TRAMS. But it did lead to some ideas for agents. Jim Bailey and Donna Daniels, both CTCs and MCCs, saw a business opportunities for their niche agency, Castaways Travel, Inc., which specializes in clothing-optional vacations and cruises. They saw definite cross marketing and merchandising opportunities.
In the bathrooms, one enterprising supplier had laid out samples of moisturizer and exfoliant creams for women to try, under a sign that promoted private labeling the products with your business’s name on them. I could see a few agents trying the lotions and then taking a card — not a bad marketing item for anyone selling spa vacations or girls’ getaways.
I rather the missed the lingerie show when it broke down before TRAMS ended. As crews carted out display racks and cases, I was amazed at how huge that show had been. Not surprisingly, I was certainly glad that we’d ended up next to the lingerie show rather than the pain management conference in another wing of the Rio’s conference area. Then again, pain management is a discipline that transforms lives. And medical tourism is an emerging field. Who knows what ideas an empathetic travel agent (and there are a lot of you out there) might get from a chance encounter, in the hallways (or the bathrooms) with conferees at that show! I Meanwhile, I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely putting TRAMS on my calendar for next year. Although I may have some competition from my colleagues.