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62 . www.conference-news.co.uk . May 2012May THE LECTURERWhether it's antique dolls, beer mats, Titanic memorabilia or sick bags taken from airplanes, collecting is the chosen hobby of millions. My own collection of shower caps taken from hotel bathrooms is legendary. So unique, that I've never met anyone else with the same hobby (although I do occasionally get emails from a chap in Scottsdale, Tasmania who has over 200 sewing kits taken from hotels. But, between you and me, he's a little bit weird).While some collectors, like our friend from Tasmania, pursue their hobby on a fairly solitary basis, most like to get together from time to time to compare their collections. American venues and convention bureaus have long recognised the importance of this market segment, and many have individual members of their sales teams specialising in seeking business from collectors clubs. And the consequences of winning events business from these clubs can be signifi cant. For example, the 2011 National Barbie Doll Collectors Convention, held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort and Spa, 27-30 July, brought together 1,000 collectors of all ages and backgrounds for four days of presentations, competitions and fashion shows, all based on the famous Barbie Doll merchandise. (No, before you ask, I wasn't there).In the US, the task of fi nding these clubs is made easier through the Association of Collecting Clubs (ACC). Its website is compelling, is there anything that Americans don't collect? There are clubs for people with collections of blow torches, doorknobs, Beach Boys LPs, whistles, inn signs. In short, everything from Abbott and Costello memorabilia to Zippo lighters. Before you dismiss this phenomenon as yet another bizarre American endeavor, ask yourself whether there is any evidence that in the UK we are less enthusiastic about collecting? Googling the words 'British + collectors + society' instantly reveals a world of clubs, societies and groups whose members are building up collections of an incredible range of objects and, more to the point, meeting on a regular basis. To choose one at random, what about the British Compact Collectors Society, whose members meet annually to display their collections of powder compacts? Over the years, their annual conventions, open to their 200 members and guests, have been held in Windsor, Solihull, Blackpool, Slough, Warrington, Bristol, Ipswich, Sheffi eld, Cheltenham, Warwick, Bracknell and Peterborough.When you think of the many thousands of collectors' clubs in the UK, it begins to look like a substantial segment of the meetings market, but one which is all too often overlooked by sales staff in venues and convention bureaus. Yet, the annual conventions of groups like these offer a few important advantages to the hosts. For one, these events more often than not take place at weekends, when you most need to fi ll your conference centre or hotel seminar rooms; the attendees usually come with family members who are off spending money in your shops, restaurants and tourist attractions while their other halves are getting all steamed up about their collections of Victorian postcards or Hornby train sets; and, for reasons of economy, these events are often held in second-tier cities. It's not an easy market segment to reach, as most of these clubs are run by volunteers. But no venue or conference destination can afford to leave any stone unturned in their search for business, it may just be worth taking a look at collectors clubs as potential clients.These events more often than not take place at weekends, when you need to fi ll your conference centre mostCollect call Rob DavidsonRob Davidson is a Senior Lecturer in Events Management at the University of Greenwich.Rob Davidson looks at the lucrative market of collecting

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