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."
26 MAY 2011 EXHIBITIONNEWS.CO.UK "Venues are opening where there is a local customer base to be served, exploiting opportunities where a signifi cant audience is already in that area." EXHIBITION NEWS venuesoffering. "We are very mindful of the competition so in our service and relationship with our clients is where we aim to add value," Griffi n said."We work hard to target other venues' business, but we do that with an element of creative fl air and we have a strength in combining our sales and marketing very closely together. We have to fi ght harder for the business there is and hope that the UK will grow out of the recession so sectors start to grow again." Griffi n said the industry needed to help cement broader appeal for exhibitions with exhibitors looking to spend marketing budgets on reaching out to existing and potential customers. "We have to fi nd a way to make sure exhibitions are deemed relevant as an effective social tool," she added.In a way, Bath and Harrogate are very similar. Both market themselves as a rural alternative to the cities. The friendlier more laid-back country feel is according to Griffi n "quintessentially English", which appeals not only to people in the UK looking for a business trip that is also a break, but also to people considering visiting or exhibiting at a UK show from abroad. "There is very much a sense of heart about Harrogate that appeals to buyers," Griffi n claimed. "It's quite hard to tangibly put across, but when people come here they feel it's their home for the duration of the event."Big boys: An offer they can't refuseAccording to Excel London sales manager Jeremy Rees, the challenge to remain competitive as an exhibition venue is not to lower prices but to improve your offering. "What you are trying to do is create more value for everyone," he said. "Concentrate not on charging less but on creating a better product."Rees claimed an exhibition organiser is more concerned with the venue being the right one Jeremy ReesChris Skeiththan getting a good deal. After all, skimping on a half-rate venue could mean the difference between a sustained success and a failed show. "Price is an incidental amount compared to the revenue that could be generated by the show," he said. "There shouldn't be a discussion about price. You should put together an offer that will allow organisers to give their exhibitors the best possible experience. "This might mean that the exhibitor spends more money but they also get more return on their investment." Rees added that creating the right products for customers will make face-to-face a more effective way of doing business and thereby create more demand as exhibiting budgets increase.Even with shows getting smaller on a national scale, large venues like Excel can position themselves for international business and increase the quality and variety of offering to maintain UK business and appeal to business from abroad. Excel's most recent answer to this is the launch of the International Convention Centre including auditorium, banqueting hall and conference suite. "This is the fi rst time London is competing on an international stage with a venue that can host international exhibitions and events," Rees said. "People want to come to London but previously we didn't have the venue. When international shows move to London they get quite a substantial increase in visitors."The big pictureThe most optimistic view, and that maintained by the Association of Event Venues head Chris Skeith, is that the amount of venue space in the UK is a direct result of much wider demand than was generated by the traditional exhibition market. More event innovation is also providing new and exciting ways to engage with people face-to-face. According to Skeith, the new space cropping up is a good sign, not a harbinger of plummeting rates."More diverse venue space allows more innovation, a variety of live events that appeal to a wider customer base and ultimately a stronger industry," he claimed. "Organisers with large shows in a large venue may look to extend their reach by developing regional variants which will support the development of regional venues. Or, the regional venues may provide opportunities for organisers to launch and grow a show prior to moving it to one of the larger venues."Opening a new venue is not done on a whim, Skeith continued. "Investors are looking for a return on their investment so there must be good economic drivers for regional venues," he said. "It seems logical, therefore, to suggest venues are opening where there is a local customer base to be served and are exploiting opportunities where a signifi cant audience is already in that area."We will have more events across the country. These events will require more support services, contractors and suppliers to deliver them, they will encourage more people to engage in face-to-face events and this can only be a good thing for everyone involved in this industry."Positive thinkingInstead of plunging tenancy rates and soaring exhibiting costs, we are seeing growth in the regional exhibition market. Some venues are setting their sights on European and international shows, while others are looking to provide more welcoming, fl exible conditions. Perhaps after the economic gauntlet of the last two years, we in the exhibition industry should see the increase in offering as a stage for business growth and innovation. ENTim Banfi eld