The Evolution of GES - Then to Now
At GES, our purpose is simple - to create memorable experiences. Whether you are an exhibitor or organizer, an event planner, one of our valued partners, or an attendee, creating extraordinary events is in our DNA. We’ve been doing this a long time. And that’s thanks to our talented teams.
Do you know how we got this far? For those of you who aren’t aware of our long and storied history, let’s look back at the evolution of our company.
In the Beginning
Our roots go back to ancient times when trade fairs were the marketing methods of the day. The trade show as we know it today is a post-World War I phenomenon. Both businessmen and professionals saw the merits of meeting in person to share their experiences and ideas and formalized their meetings as conventions of trade and professional associations.
As a result, the people selling products and services recognized the unique opportunity of the captive audience that a convention provided, and so trade shows developed around conventions. In the early days of conventions with expositions, a not-for-profit association would typically hold its annual meeting in significant hotels and utilize whatever space was left over for exhibits. The exhibits generated revenue for the not-for-profit association, thereby taking pressure off associations to get all their financial support from membership dues.
The Advent of Big Venues
As the effectiveness of exhibiting increased and expanded, more extensive facilities were utilized and staged to accommodate later expositions. Places like San Francisco’s Cow Palace, Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, Chicago’s Navy Pier, New York’s Madison Square Garden, Dallas’ Fairgrounds, and more became event sites during the 1920s, 1930s, and post-World War II 1940s. Only in the mid-1950s did organizations press municipalities to build better facilities and convention centers with first-class exhibit space and meeting rooms. This was when construction began on legendary venues like New York’s Coliseum and Las Vegas Convention Center.
From Greyhound to Dial to Viad
Introduced in 1948, the Dial brand name was first given to a unique deodorant soap developed by researchers at the Chicago-based meat processing business of Armour & Company. In 1970, Armour was acquired by the Greyhound Corporation, the leader in the motorcoach industry.
An overhaul and restructuring of the company began in 1982 and Greyhound was sold to a group of investors. In 1996, Dial split into two publicly held companies: Viad Corp., which took the $2.2 billion services businesses, and The Dial Corp., which took the $1.4 billion consumer products businesses. Viad Corp. included the former Dial’s airline catering and services and Dobbs International; convention services, including GES Exposition Services and Exhibitgroup/Giltspur, Inc.; leisure and payment services, including Travelers Express (MoneyGram), the food service company Restaura, Premier Cruise Lines; and the company’s majority stake in Greyhound Lines of Canada.
Where We Are Now
As time went on, many subsidiaries of Viad were sold. In 2004, Viad spun off MoneyGram into its corporation. That left the remaining divisions to focus on the Marketing and Events Group and the Travel Recreation Group.
As the 2000s progressed, our Canadian group expanded across the country, and our UK group ventured into the Middle East. More mergers resulted in the name change to Global Experience Specialists, followed by more audio and video services acquisitions and cloud-based intelligent platforms. By now, Global Experience Specialists was rebranded as simply GES. Following the global pandemic in 2020, GES added a new collective, christened Spiro in honor of the spirograph logo element, to the GES family.
A Bright Future Ahead
It's been quite a journey from our modest beginnings. Our future is bright, bolstered by a strong foundation, and powered by expert teams with an unrivaled global reach. We hope you will join us as we continue to thrive and grow and incorporate our mission, purpose, and core values into everything we do.
1939 - Manncraft, a sign, window, and small exhibit company, was founded in Kansas City
1950's - Manncraft created an Exhibitor Service Division and expanded to Omaha, Miami, Tampa, Atlanta & New Orleans
1969 - The Greyhound Corporation purchased Manncraft and changed the name to Greyhound Exhibition Services = GES
1970 - The Greyhound Corporation acquired Armour & Company (Armour-Dial)
1973 - Purchased Las Vegas Convention Service Company
1974 - Purchased Stuart-Sauter Company in San Francisco
1975 - Purchased Wernecke Studios in Chicago
1979 - Manncraft changed its name to Greyhound Exposition Services
1987 - Electrical Division serviced companywide both Show Organizer and Exhibitors
1990 - Purchased Rowan Northwestern Decorators and Northwest Exhibit Drayage Company (NEDCO) in Seattle
1990 - Purchased Decorators West, Classic Decorating, and Pacific Exposition Drayage Company (PEDCO) in Portland
1992 - Headquarters moved to Las Vegas – offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Portland, Reno, Palm Springs – over 500 full-time staff
1993 - Purchased United Exposition Service Company to expand nationwide. Changed name from Greyhound Exposition Services to GES Exposition Services to reflect the “new GES.” Also upgraded equipment across the company
1993 - Purchased Andrews, Bartlett & Associates, a significant contractor based in Hudson, Ohio, expanded GES back into the East & Central USA
1993 - Purchased Gelco Convention Services based in Miami with offices also in Orlando
1994 - Enhanced electrical services by acquiring Expo-Tech Electrical and Plumbing renamed division Tradeshow Electrical (TSE)
1995 - Expanded into Canada with purchase of Panex Show Services and Stampede Display and Convention Services – offices in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton
1995 - Purchased Concept Convention Services with offices in Phoenix, Tucson, and Albuquerque
1996 - Purchased Canada Exposervice and Clarkson-Conway in Montreal.
1998 - Purchased Canada Ainsworth’s Show Services Electrical – now known as SHOWTECH Power & Lighting
1998 - Purchased ESR in New York/New Jersey
1999 - Purchased Tradeshow and Convention Services in Seattle
2004 - Added to Canada Divisions Pro Show Services in Alberta & Saskatchewan
2007 - The Canadian team expanded by purchasing Poitras Exposition Services in Quebec City
2007 - Viad acquired in the United Kingdom Melville Exhibitions and Event Services Limited
2006 - Melville expanded to Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Centre (ADNEC)
2008 - Viad acquires Becker Group Ltd. – an Experiential Marketing Company
2008 - Melville became a full-service provider in Abu Dhabi
2010 - Merged Exhibitgroup/Giltspur (EG), Becker Group, and GES Exposition Services. The name changed to “Global Experience Specialists” to reflect our new global team after GES merged with our sister company Exhibitgroup/Giltspur. The spirograph was introduced to our logo.
2014 - Blitz Communications – Audio Visual Services United Kingdom
2014 - onPeak and Travel Planners – United States Accommodations provider for events
2014 - Visit by GES - European leader in event registration and data services
2016 - ON Events Services – US Event & AV provider – new name ON Services – a GES company
2017 - Poken – Europe-based company that provides a cloud-based visitor engagement and measurement platform.
2018 - Global Experience Specialists is shorted to GES
2020 - Global Pandemic
2022 - Spiro is created from the spirograph and with a nod to Exhibitgroup/Giltspur (EG), the acquired company that brought the spirograph and the corporate accounts division to GES.