VENUE WATCHwww.exhibitionnews.co.uk 29A regionAl The UK's largest venues continue to win business, but how are mid-sized exhibition venues faring? EN asks three regional players for their reportew events are back on the agenda as exhibition organisers look to strengthen their portfolios and leave the economic downturn behind. But industry development doesn't stop at the organiser's door. UK venues are also ramping up investment plans and fine-tuning their exhibition strategies to ensure further growth.You only have to look at a few facilities across the UK to see an emerging trend towards expansion. Those bringing new space on-board in the next 12-36 months include Harrogate International Centre, The International Centre in Telford, the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Edinburgh International Conference Centre, ACC Liverpool and the Royal Norfolk Society. And that's not including new entrants such as Bluewater and EventCity. In light of these changing venue circumstances, EN asked three mid-sized regional facilities in different parts of the country to outline the state of exhibition business as well as where new opportunities are coming from and what inhibitors they face.NVENUESYorkshire eveNt CeNtre, harrogatesize: 5,372sqm aCross halls 1 aNd 2; 250-aCre siteFor the Yorkshire Event Centre (YEC), capitalising on its regional location and selling Harrogate, not just the venue, has opened the door to more varied business. Venue manager Rowan Bennett highlighted several new large-scale events on its books this year such as The Yorkshire Family Show, Emigrate, Mechanex, The TR register International Weekend and the Co-operative Operations Conferences.In 2010, YEC's event portfolio consisted of 35 public exhibitions and 10 trade exhibitions as well as private dinners and conferences, attracting more than 500,000 people."During 2010 and 2011 we've seen an increase in new public exhibitions such as the Yorkshire Family Show and the British Wool Weekend," Bennett said. "In 2010 we held a number of prestigious social events including the Asda Long Service Awards, the Golden Oldies Cricket Dinner and the Welcome to Yorkshire White Rose Awards. This is due to clients and agencies looking to use more unique and unusual venues, which can meet their requirements while offering something different. "We are also seeing an increase in film location shoots due to the variety of event spaces on offer such as our disused viaduct." Simultaneously, an 83 per cent repeat business rate is keeping revenues up, Bennett said. As well as craft, antique and gift shows its flagship events include the 153-year old Great Yorkshire Show, the Harrogate Spring and Autumn Flower Shows, Model Engineering, North of England Woodworking and Power Tool Show and the Ice Cream and Dairy Show."We are seeing an increasing amount of competition for events from other venues, particularly those who are extending or building new event spaces," Bennett said in response to challenges facing the YEC. "However we are privileged to have an established and reputable venue set just on the outskirts of the spa town of Harrogate." Business continues to appear in both consumer and trade markets, particularly with an outdoor bent. "We have recently seen a huge increase in the number of large-scale outdoor events such as car rallies and camps," Bennett said. He put it down to the YEC's free parking and flexible space, which saves organisers additional costs. "Our core business is exhibitions but each year we have seen an increase in conferences and social events due to our growing reputation as an all-round national venue," Bennett added.To help meet demand, the YEC has expanded its car park with an additional 1,000 spaces and made improvements to the organiser's office. THE NORTHheAlTh checK
VENUES30 www.exhibitionnews.co.ukThe SouThBournemouth InternatIonal Centre, BournemouthSIze: 6,000Sqm aCroSS four hallS; PavIlIon Ballroom - 1,000SqmAn unlikely area of exhibition business for Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) has been the tattoo industry. Among the venue's key events in the past 12 months was the second annual Bournemouth Tattoo Convention, which celebrates that lifestyle and culture and took up two of its largest halls. "The established trade shows are focusing on different feature ideas and 'educational workshops' and have robust social media strategies in place to ensure all opportunities are maximised," BIC venue manager Steve Piper explained. "We are actively pursuing the consumer shows that take place over a weekend and working alongside established organisers to help their shows evolve and grow. Consumer shows are important as they give us a varied programme and give the public better access to the venue."Longstanding exhibitions at the BIC include the Wedding Show, UK Dance Exhibition, Hotel and Catering Exhibition and The Care Show. Newer entrants range from the California Dreamin' Motorcycle Expo to the The Nursery Show."We have noticed an increase in enquiries from national organisers for mainly consumer shows that are considering Bournemouth as a regular destination," Piper said. "There is also an increase with 'smaller' start-up shows that are perfect for the BIC's sister venue The Bournemouth Pavilion." Examples include the All Woman Show, Vintage Fashion and Accessories Fair.Improvements to the BIC are ongoing. One area of emphasis has been to reduce energy consumption by installing solar panels along the Windsor Hall roof to provide power for hot water. Last year, £300,000 was invested in the Tregonwell Hall to improve and update the facility.The establishment of the BH Live leisure and tourism trust in 2010 to manage the BIC and six other local venues is also helping to better promote the value of events. A key objective is to enhance local and regional economic prosperity by hosting major exhibitions, conferences and events. "BH allows us to be more commercial in our negotiations and helps to attract events sponsorship deals while working in partnership with local business and companies," Piper said. "It has lifted some restrictions we had being under a local authority."StoneleIgh Park, WarWICkShIreSIze: 7,500Sqm PurPoSe-BuIlt SPaCe; 21,000Sqm Indoor and 1,000 aCreSLike the YEC, Stoneleigh Park's flexibility is providing growth, communications manager Chloe Davies said. The venue runs trade and consumer events including World of Park and Leisure Home, Playfair and the Edible Garden Show. Davies said several new exhibitions are coming to the venue in the next 12 months but was unable to disclose further details given many are launch shows. In addition, Stoneleigh has found success in a number of conferences with exhibition elements as well as within its core agriculture and land-based sector. "It's the combination of indoor and outdoor space, particularly given outdoor can be slightly more cost-effective for organisers," Davies said. "Our portfolio is broad-based. Because we have a history in agriculture we still have a strong hold in that area, but we're also seeing an increase in corporates looking for a cost-effective solution for their events."Moving forward, the venue is keeping its options open on the types of exhibitions it actively pursues. And although it claims the majority of its audience is within 90 minutes, Davies also believed it could attract both regional and national events given its central England position.Longer term, a £50m capital investment injection from LaSalle Investment Management in December 2010 over the next 10 years will change Stoneleigh Park's proposition. As part of the deal, day-to-day events management passed from the Royal Agricultural Society of England charity to LaSalle. "This funding is not specific to events, but it will see changes to the site and improvements to our overall infrastructure," Davies said. For example, its current rebranding campaign is the first step in a 12-month improvements plan. "Our marketing budget has increased as well, so we're gearing up for a big push," she added.The MidlandSInduStry healthRegional venues are optimistic about business but agreed market conditions are challenging."We feel the exhibition industry is gradually improving as organisers' confidence in the economy improves," YEC's Bennett said. "People are utilising the events and activities taking place in the local region and enjoying 'staycations' to save on cost without sacrificing their annual holiday. Confidence is growing with exhibitors too as the value of face-to-face interaction experienced at live events remains a key sales generator." At BIC, continued economic constraints are apparent in the average size of the organiser's budget. "Organisers are faced with much tighter budgetary constraints and have to consider how they can reduce costs," Piper said. "This can result in additional pressures on the venue during set-up and break down days to complete the job as quickly as possible."Stoneleigh Park's Davies agreed it would be a while before the industry is clear of the downturn. "Event organisers are reporting that it's still a challenging market place," she said. "But we're starting to see an improvement."