24 maY 2011 exhibitionnews.co.ukIt's a discussion that comes up every year: The UK already has too much venue space, and this leads to a weakened exhibitor experience, which undermines the reputation of exhibitions as a medium.The argument goes like this: More venue space reduces the demand for venues and gives the power of selection to organisers. To attract business from organisers, venues have to reduce their tenancy rates. However, the money has to come from somewhere and this could mean costs are passed to exhibitors in the form of electrics pricing and so on.The exhibitor, seeing the cost of exhibiting going up, begins to expect a lot more return on investment to justify the expense, or at least a lot more content to add value. Not only does this put pressure on organisers to do more with their budgets - and where will they get the money market townsMike Trudeau investigates the consequences of increased regional venue space on the UK exhibition market.exhibiTion news venuesUnlocking for that? - but it can make exhibitors lose faith in exhibitions as an effective marketing tool.Despite this argument, in the last year we've seen new venue space popping up around the UK like mushrooms after rain. The Harrogate International Centre, The Bluewater Events Venue in Kent, Manchester's EventCity, ACC Liverpool's recent announcement of an 8,100sqm new exhibition space, the 10,000sqm planned for the Bath and West Showgrounds - one can't help but feel like that someone somewhere knows something. If there is already too much space, are these venues piling into an already-overloaded and sinking ship? After all, shows are becoming smaller and more specialised, and the sum of each isolated vertical's floor space might not add up to the mammoth horizontal shows of old. Could venues like ACC Liverpool be building smaller halls (2,700sqm in Liverpool's case) in anticipation of this trend? And if so, what does this mean for the larger sheds?To find our answer, we first must determine if the argument is even valid. Have rates really been going up? According to EN's venue sources, rates have not been rising definitively. Instead, what we are seeing is an increased diversity in pricing options and extras.According to the owners of the new venues and venues-to-be, the result will not be rock-bottom rates, but better offers. While the principle of supply and demand is central to economics, competition is one of the chief tenets of capitalism: Make people compete for business and their products will a) diversify and b) get better.the Regions CEO of the Royal Bath and West of England Society Jane Guise said the new 10,000sqm exhibition space at the showgrounds will target
EXHIBITIONNEWS.CO.UK MAY 2011 25growing regional business, rather than steal it from the cities or other regional venues. "We are doing it because we have several very large events with signifi cant requirements for space," she said. "We regard ourselves as a special place in a rural area and not particularly in competition with the urban sites."The project is still in its early stages. At time of writing the showground master plan had been approved but the council had not yet given offi cial planning permission. However, Guise said the venue has received more booking enquiries than in previous years.In March, ACC Liverpool secured £40m in funding to create an 8,100sqm exhibition venue after 18 months of planning. "There are a number of reasons to open a new venue space," GM of the venue's attached Echo Arena Tim Banfi eld said. "Business for ACC Liverpool has been successful in the fi rst three years of our operation. We have had double what we originally envisaged in the plan. A lot of events that have come here have grown and we want to ensure that if they grow, we grow to maintain their business."If you think about our core business, we haven't served the exhibition industry as such."According to Banfi eld, there was only one standalone exhibition in Liverpool last year and the venue's bread and butter comes from conferences and entertainment events like concerts and performances. Now, Banfi eld hopes Liverpool will be able to offer UK exhibition organisers what they want while gaining access to the European and international markets where the city's capacity has previously been limited. The ACC also hopes to tap into new territory."Not only does this allow us to expand our core business, but it allows the exhibition industry to expand into the Merseyside and Liverpool areas, because at the moment it isn't a market you can enter," he claimed. "I think the regional exhibition market has come through the recession very strongly and the venues are being more welcoming to new entrants to the market."The national market is dominated by bigger players so with more space available in the UK there is more opportunity for new entrepreneurs and existing ones to enter new markets."Banfi eld doesn't believe the new venue will steal anyone's business. "If the organisers come here, especially on the consumer side, it will be by adding to their portfolios around the UK instead of moving them," he said. "We are looking to enter new markets, not existing ones."It's a good thing for the visitor ultimately because we will have to keep upping our game in terms of service. In the history of new venues that come into the marketplace, I think service and value for money has improved over the years."Although it already boasts sizeable exhibition space, Harrogate International Centre (HIC) is another regional facility expanding its bricks-and-mortar offering and will open up 3,300sqm of combined space in autumn. According to head of sales and marketing Alison Griffi n, it expects to grow along with its clients and compete for business with big urban venues."The decision was prompted by client feedback," said Griffi n. "We have some of the longest-running shows in terms of trade shows and some of those wanted to expand. We primarily wanted to enable our venue to be used in a fl exible capacity."HIC has been running events since the 1950s, so this is also an opportunity to update the venues EXHIBITION NEWS New venue spaceACC Liverpool: Three 2,700sqm halls (total 8,100sqm), opening September 2014Bath and West: 10,000sqm (20,000sqm total), completion date TBAHarrogate International Centre: 3,300sqm (total 19,800sqm), opening autumn 2011EventCity, Manchester: 25,000sqm, opened February 2011Bluewater Events Venue: 5,200sqm, opening late 2011"The national market is dominated by bigger players so with more space available in the UK there is more opportunity for new entrepreneurs."