Magazine article Marketing

Excel Challenges London's Venues

Magazine article Marketing

Excel Challenges London's Venues

Article excerpt

The capital's even facilities square up to 90,000[m.sup.2] of new space.

A status quo has existed among London's conferences and exhibitions venue market for many years now, but come autumn, it is going to be disrupted in dramatic fashion.

Some furious building activity in the Docklands will see the birth of ExCel, where the Royal Docks once sat. But with 90,000[m.sup.2] of events space when it opens and a further 155,000[m.sup.2] to be added by September 2003, ExCel will still be only half the size it should be to properly address the needs of a space-hungry exhibition market, says John Fish, managing director of John Fish Exhibitions. Even so, there is no getting away from the fact that ExCel will stand as the largest events facility the City has ever had.

But what does the arrival of ExCel mean for long-established venues in London, and what are their battle plans in the face of this competition?

Some don't see ExCel as direct competition because of the difference in capacity. "We can't offer more than 6000[m.sup.2]," says Martin Mochan, venue sales manager at the Business Design Centre in Islington.

"We are too small for the large exhibition organisers to consider us in the first place -- they are looking at space covering 8000[m.sup.2] to 10,000[m.sup.2]plus. Our niche is mainly business-to-business trade events and a sprinkling of consumer shows."

Preparing for the forthcoming monster landing on its Docklands' doorstep, the London Arena, with 9000[m.sup.2] of space, has also been weighing up the pros and cons of ExCel. The fact that it is a much bigger building and predominantly an exhibition-led venue, whereas the Arena can cater for anything in the sporting, entertainment and corporate worlds, sets the venues apart.

A [pounds]10m investment in 1998 has certainly been a boost for the Arena, too, and it is now preparing to spread its marketing net wider, looking beyond the confines of the UK to European and US clients.

But leaving nothing to chance, sales director James Rees says: "We have become more targeted as the competition has built up. In the early days we had no profile at all, but now we are sensible in our approach to the sort of events we are looking to attract and we do turn events away if we feel they are not the right fit."

The likes of Earls Court and Olympia and, to a lesser extent, Wembley, while still smaller in size than ExCel, are watching the situation more closely. For events requiring more than 12,000[m.sup.2] of space, the range of venues in London has always been restricted. Exhibitions needing up to 30,000[m.sup.2] have had Earls Court or Olympia to choose from, unless they went to Birmingham's NEC. ExCel will curb that London duopoly.

"It will put pressure on existing venues to do something different, be it in pricing or the choice of premium slots," says Wembley's London managing director, Janet Garner, adding, "ExCel will be a catalyst for action".

Exhibition organisers are already switching allegiances. The DIY and Garden Show will move from Olympia to ExCel in March 2001 and John Fish Exhibitions has decided to take its annual Holiday and Travel Show there in March 2001, having shunned the area in the past in favour of G-Mex in Manchester and the SECC in Glasgow because of congestion and parking difficulties. The fact that the ExCel site will feature parking for more 5000 cars means the capital becomes a viable option.

Meanwhile, communication technology. is the prime draw for global project management company, Management Support Services (MNS), which anticipates using ExCel every four months for conferences.

Karl Williams, MNS's European marketing director, says: "We want to be able to pull data directly into the venue from any office in the world. Most venues in London are having to modernise their buildings. Companies now operate globally and they want to be able to communicate on that basis during an event. …

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