Hotelympia returns in March with a renewed focus, having been split into four distinct shows. Ross Carter, portfolio director at event organiser Fresh Montgomery, explains what visitors can expect
There have been plenty of changes at Fresh Montgomery, so how will these be reflected in Hotelympia 2018?
The plan is to assess and evolve the hospitality segment of our portfolio, including Hotelympia and the Great Hospitality Show in Birmingham. We want to ‘contemporise' them, for want of a better word.
Beyond that, we wanted to give them identities that resonate with an exhibitor and visitor. The truth is, there is so much content in the market, I think it's important that we are very clear on our offering. We want exhibitors and visitors to be in no doubt what our offer has been for the past 84 years.
So you want to be more explicit about describing the show?
That's the nature of trade marketing currently. It's more contemporary to be clearer in your offering. We recognise that we have the marketleading event, and though big isn't always better, it's a great platform for engagement.
We want to appeal to what are now very different groups of buyers among very different channels of the trade. We're competing with the internet these days too, so it's important to capture people's imagination as quickly as you can.
Do people interact differently with exhibitions nowadays?
Given the technology, you'd think people would do quality research in advance - and I'm sure there are some people who do - but that said, people are time-poor and making decisions to come to events late. I'm among that group. It's important to recognise that technology is useful, but there are so many options that people aren't always as well prepared as you would think.
We need to do our best in terms of communication, so that people can plan effectively in advance. But also when they get to the event, there needs to be technology that delivers answers immediately. People want immediate solutions to small problems.
So what type of technology might that be at the event?
It's about how we connect buyer groups to exhibitor groups and do a degree of curation of the content. We want to deliver a curated list of exhibitors, seminars and networking opportunities that are specific to their needs.
That's the way in which events are going, particularly bigger ones where the offering is vast and needs to be demystified.
We must be more aware of our visitor requirements and match that better to the content. It's on our agenda of priorities for 2019 and beyond.
You joined from the London Wine Fair and have a strong background in the winebusiness. What can Hotelympia learn from the wine sector?
The wine trade is a much-romanticised industry but it is a very competitive margin industry that has, to a large extent, been commoditised by entry-level wine and major retailers. As a result, marketing funds are limited, so as a media provider, you have to be creative.
If there's anything I've learned, it's that you have to be lean and efficient, but deliver high-quality services, particularly in such a visual business. As a wine buyer, I would help to come up with the designs on the labels and the look and feel.
Does that tie in with the look and feel you're trying to bring to Hotelympia?
We're definitely going for recognisable, easy to understand yet elegant design pieces that resonate with the visitor immediately.
What's new at the event itself?
First, the four shows will be unique experiences in their own right, with that branding following through to the entrances. Beyond that, we're also introducing an awful lot of new content.
Obviously, Salon Culinaire is the mainstay of the visitor attractions, and is a hugely successful and much-loved competition in the cheffing world. That will be part of Hotelympia for evermore. But we're also conscious that our audience extends far beyond chefs, so we need to have an array of visitor attractions and content that sit with those requirements. We'll be introducing two important new attractions, but they're under wraps for the moment. The idea is that they will address all the key issues that the trade is facing.
Issues such as women in hospitality, the apprenticeship levy, soft-drinks levy and staff shortage will certainly be covered. We'll look at them with a future-gazing and optimistic solutions-led attitude. We're not doing this to talk about problems, but solutions. The content will satisfy the education needs of the hospitality industry in general and to support our chef content.
What's the biggest challenge in putting on a show of this scale?
The minutiae. There are hundreds of small decisions to be made for a show of this size and many are with business partners such as exhibitors, key chef consultants or the directorate on the Salon Culinaire.
What excites you the most about this show?
It's hard to choose between the four new exhibitions. I'm most excited by the fact that we've created four new brands - five with Café Commerce, a new village within the foodservice show that will be both exhibitors and content around the booming coffee market. Our aim is to address the issues of commercial viability of hot-drinks offers and juices.
More broadly, I'm keen to see how our new brands and identities resonate with the trade, and seeing what more we can do with them in terms of products.
Registration for Hotelympia 2018 is now open.
Visit www.hotelympia.com for details.
Hotelympia has a new organising team, led by Ross Carter (below), and a strategy set to reinvigorate the event in 2018.
Fresh Montgomery, the organisers of the event that takes place at ExCeL London on 5-8 March 2018, has announced four new shows.
Each of the them - the Foodservice Show, incorporating a coffee-focused Café Commerce feature, the Hospitality Tech Show, the Professional Kitchen Show
and Interiors & Tableware Show - will be a specialist event in itself.
The remit of the new organising team at Fresh Montgomery is to bring both established and new visitors into the fold, introducing exhibitors to untapped audiences.
"The resilience, optimism, entrepreneurial spirit and constant drive for innovation that the hospitality industry represents is something truly worthy of celebration," says Carter.
"In 2018, a modern take on Hotelympia will move the show forward without losing sight of its 83-year heritage.
"Following a period of consultation with the trade, we have developed the Hotelympia brand to act as the umbrella to four co-located shows, each created to meet the demands of specific buying audiences in the hospitality industry.
"Since its inception, Hotelympia has sought to mirror the vibrant industry that it serves, to stay relevant and ahead of the curve - 2018 will be no different."