TORONTO – From the vendor perspective the big story out of IRA this year is attendance which is less than half of the number that attended last year. Final numbers are not available yet but rumors on the exhibit floor ranged from 5,000 to 7,500 and at times it felt like 0. Prior years have ranged from 17,000 to over 20,000. It is a shame because there are some exciting new products out this year from companies large and small.
No one had a definitive explanation for the drop off. It can’t be budgets, because Toronto isn’t any more expensive than Chicago was last year. In fact it has some significant bargains ($2 seats to the Bluejays anyone?). Perhaps it was just too difficult politically to send someone to a foreign country on a school budget. Maybe people were scared away by having to have a passport.
Whatever the cause it seems pretty clear that in the post 9/11 world American educators are not as able or as willing to embrace the International aspect of the organization. This is tragic because it is happening at precisely the time that the rest of the world is growing ever closer.