They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and the Dallas trade show industry is no exception. The Lone Star State is one of the top destinations in the country for industry expos and conferences. Texas trade shows draw decision makers from a wide range of fields to the state.
One Texas city stands out from the rest: Dallas puts a particular emphasis on attracting events to its acclaimed convention center. Every year, you’ll find major industry leaders and brand new products at Dallas trade shows. Whether you’re attending a Dallas trade show or one in another Texan city, here’s what to know before you go.
Texas has proven itself to be a true trade show hotspot. Of the 20 most popular cities for trade shows and corporate events in the United, four are in Texas, according to Exhibitor magazine. Here is where they ranked:
Additionally, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas all placed in the top 20 favorite cities to attend on business among exhibit and event professionals.
Why is Texas such a destination for trade shows? There are a few big reasons. First of all, the southwestern locale often means favorable weather: Attendees to trade shows in Texas don’t usually have to worry about snowstorms or frigid temperatures. Additionally, Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Antonio all have the infrastructure, convention venues and capacity to handle the influx of visitors.
Dallas, the biggest trade show destination in the state, attracts 27.2 million visitors in all each year, and has 80,000 hotel rooms - 13,000 of them downtown - to host these drop-ins. The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas is one of the state’s top venues for trade shows. Its hosts about 24 events considered to be “citywide,” meaning they attract at least 2,500 people at their peak.
Houston, meanwhile, hosts 40 major events every year and 200 smaller ones, many at the popular George R. Brown Convention Center. In 2017, 802,859 nights at hotel rooms were booked for conventions, a 5 percent increase over 2016.
Texas cities consistently rank high in lists of the top U.S. cities to travel to. Cvent’s roundup of the 50 best meeting destinations in the United States featured 7 Texas cities, with Dallas the highest ranked at No. 8. On Call International said that both Dallas and Houston are among the top 10 cities for business travel, based on factors like on-time flights, hotel prices, mobile networks, and traffic congestion.
To attract trade shows to the state, Texas can also point to its status as a major hub for industry leaders in a variety of different sectors. Nearly 50 companies on the Fortune 500 list are headquartered in the Lone Star state.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area alone is home to 22 companies on the most recent Fortune 500 ranking, including big names like third-ranked Exxon Mobil, JCPenney, AT&T, and Texas Instruments. Houston has 21 on the same list, with Phillips 66 and Sysco leading the way. In San Antonio, there are five Fortune 500 companies, with Valero its highest-ranked outfit. And Austin boasts major players Dell and Whole Foods. These cities are also hotspots for new startups that are blazing trails in their fields.
The high proportion of major brands and trendy new firms within close proximity makes it likely that a trade show in Texas will be able to show off the cutting edge of their industries. Buyers and other trade show attendees from across the country want to see how these heavy hitters continue to impact the business world.
Texas wouldn’t have become a leading trade show hub without top-notch venues to host the expos. The biggest cities in Texas all boast facilities that collectively handle millions of visitors every year, making it that much more important to get noticed on a crowded expo floor.
The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas sees more than 1 million visitors annually for events like the Great American Trucking Show, Small Business Expo and CAMX. The more than 2 million square feet of total space encompasses 1 million square feet of exhibit space and a 10,000-seat arena. For added convenience, the Convention Center is connected by SkyBridge to the Omni Dallas Hotel, where 1,001 rooms are available.
Formerly Reliant Park, NRG Park in Houston features a convention center with 1.4 million square feet in all, and more than 700,000 square feet of contiguous single-level exhibit space. First opened in 2002, the center’s website boasts about its leading technology infrastructure - which makes sense, considering the venue is named after an energy and utilities company.
Since opening in 1987, Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center has hosted some of the top conventions in Texas, including the NAPE Summit and Comicpalooza. Its original 1.2 million square feet have ballooned to 1.8 million square after renovations and expansions over the years.
The 5 million square foot facility is a leading wholesale marketplace, featuring four buildings: the Dallas World Trade Center, the Dallas Market Hall, Trade Mart, and International Trade. While the showrooms operate year-round, the facility has a packed calendar of major special events for apparel, accessories, home decor, gifts and more. Among the most anticipated are the Dallas Apparel and Accessories Market, the Total Home & Gifts Markets and the Dallas Western Market.
There is no shortage of lodging around the venue. Hotels near the Dallas Market Center include the Holiday Inn Dallas Market Center, the Doubletree by Hilton - Market Center, the Hilton Garden Inn Dallas/Market Center, and several others.
First opened in 1968, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in Downtown San Antonio hosts more than 300 events every year, with more than 750,000 people passing through. Its 1 million square feet includes over 500,000 square feet of exhibition space, more than 70 meeting rooms and the largest ballroom in Texas.
Though it hosts many events, Austin Convention Center is most noteworthy for its status as the home base for SXSW, one of Texas’ signature yearly events. The facility has nearly 900,000 square feet of space, with a nearly 250,000 square foot exhibit hall.
Whatever industry you’re in, the Big D has a trade show for you. Dallas trade shows span a wide range of different business categories, including apparel and accessories, home decor and gifts, sports, trucks and automotive, pets and more. Here are a few of the major Dallas expos and conventions where you can find new clients and strengthen business relationships.
One of the biggest trucking conferences in the country, the Great American Trucking Show is now celebrating its 20th anniversary. The show reliably packs the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention in Dallas with drivers, enthusiasts and anyone else with a passion for trucking. Take a look at the numbers at the Great American Trucking Show:
Live music, competitions and other entertainment will also be on hand for attendees and exhibitors. While the event is open to the general public, you do have to register to attend.
Most major trade shows take place once a year. But the Dallas Total Home and Gift Market lives up to Texas’ supersized reputation by mounting four trade shows per year. Editions of the event are held in January, March, June and September.
Now more than 60 years old, the Total Home and Gift Market takes place at the Dallas Market Center, a leading hub for wholesale transactions. The 5 million square foot showroom plays host to retailers, interior designers, manufacturers and more. Dallas Market Center is a permanent showroom but hosts special events and trade shows throughout the year. This is what you can expect when attending the Total Home and Gift Market:
The market is not open to the public - you must be a qualified industry professional to attend one of the shows.
Not to be outdone by the Total Home and Gift Market, the Dallas Apparel and Accessories Market takes place five times every year. Similarly held at the Dallas Market Center, the apparel market has been going strong for 55 years now. Shipping to retail trade shows is big business in Texas.
Like the gift market, the Dallas Apparel Market draws about 40,000 attendance at its peak events. Its categories include women’s, men’s and children’s apparel, fashion accessories, shoe, swimwear, bridal, prom, and more. Throughout the year, you’ll also find specialty markets catering to specific audiences, such as the Dallas Western Market and the Men’s Show.
The Texas Home & Gardens shows aren’t limited to Dallas - the organization hosts trade shows in cities across the state. But the spring event in Dallas is city’s longest-running garden show, going for 40 years now.
It is held annually at Dallas Market Hall, part of the Dallas Market Center campus. The Market Hall is the only part of the facility open to the public and hosts a wide range of trade shows annually. The show spans 100,000 square feet, with big brands names like IKEA and Lowes on display.
The expos above are just a few of the most popular trade shows to draw thousands of people to Dallas. But the top events don’t stop there. Don’t forget about these marquee industry gatherings:
Other major events aren’t held in Dallas every year, but do show up in the city regularly. CAMX, the Composites and Advanced Materials Expo, recently took place at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Dallas Convention Center. ABCA, the American Baseball Coaches Association, held its largest convention ever in Dallas, with more 6,600 coaches in attendance. The SC Conference for supercomputing and the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting have both come to Dallas recently.
As the biggest city in Texas, Houston isn’t about to let Dallas claim the entire Texas trade show market for itself. H-Town has no shortage of major expos, conventions and conferences blasting off in the city. Here are the top Houston trade shows to look out for:
It’s no surprise that the top oil and gas expo would be held in Texas. A weeklong event, NAPE is the leading trade show for the oil and gas industry’s major players to gather. Held at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center, the event draws about 12,000 attendees and hosts 700 exhibitors. NAPE stands for North American Prospect Expo. The summit has been running for 25 years now.
Yet another energy convention, the Offshore Technology Conference is held every year at NRG Park in Houston. It is among the 200 largest trade shows in the United States. The flagship conference in Houston has been going strong since 1969, but OTC has expanded to also host an Arctic Technology Conference, along with offshoots in Brazil and Asia.
While Dallas and Houston are major trade show destinations, they’re far from the only places to attend a leading industry expo in Texas. Throughout the Lone Star state, business professionals and business owners are gathering to grow their companies at top trade shows such as the following:
No matter where you’re shipping to in Texas, R+L Global Logistics’ trade show experts can help you. Our trade show team has a proven track record, ensuring that exhibit materials arrive at their destination safely and on time. With 24/7 support and real-time tracking, you follow your booth through every step of the process. Learn everything you need to know about USA trade show shipping with us.