With so many exhibitors, competitions, seminars, conferences and live demonstrations at the 2010 hospitality showcase you could find yourself overwhelmed. Here, experienced Hotelympia hands offer their advice on how to get the best out of the event
It's not just the runners taking part in the Hotelympia 10k who need to prepare themselves for this year's exhibition at ExCel. The venue is part of a 100-acre campus - and you will be covering much of that during Hotelympia.
First off, make sure you pre-register - at www.hotelympia.com - and slip past the queues. While there, you can also create your very own show planner online before you go, making sure you don't miss out on anything vital.
It's probably best to leave the high heels and brand-new pointy shoes at home in favour of something more comfortable. Expect temperature fluctuations in different halls, so wear layers.
Booking lunch at La Parade des Chefs comes highly recommended, but exhibition-goers who can't get a restaurant table often survive on the many freebies being given away on the stands. Nevertheless, it makes sense to pack a few snacks and a bottle of water. And take plenty of business cards: you never know who you might meet.
Wendy Bartlett, managing director of contract caterer Bartlett Mitchell, a long-time Hotelympia visitor, has a number of tips for exhibition-goers.
"Definitely wear comfy shoes, and don't carry a coat - check it in. Don't pick up lots of pamphlets; get them sent to you. If you accept business cards, then write where you met and what product you were interested in, so when you or they follow up you remember why you talked," she says.
"Mark out the stands you definitely want to see and go to those first. Make sure you do those; you can then relax, enjoy, network and catch up. Don't try to do it all - it's too exhausting - just make sure you do what you need to get the best out of the event, for yourself and the exhibitors."
Peter Griffiths, salon director at Hotelympia, stresses that planning is vital. "If you can manage only one day, try and get there early and allocate the full day. Prioritise your time," he says.
"First, source the companies you want to visit, check their stand numbers and location on the floor plan. Visit the features which may interest you, such as Salon Culinaire, Stage 75, Designers' Wall, Champagne Bar, etc. Try and find time to dine on La Parade des Chefs, feel the industry buzz in the heart of the show, and after a good lunch and a glass of wine, browse both the North and South halls until closing time."
Toby Wand, event director at Hotelympia, says you should work out who and what you want to see, on what day, before you arrive at the ExCel centre.
"Do your research. Avoid missing key speakers at Stage 75 and the chance to quiz your chosen Inspiration Team expert at the Knowledge Store by looking over the schedules at www.hotelympia.com," he says.
"This year, I'm delighted to say, visitors really are spoilt for choice on Stage 75, with the Roux brothers, [Tourism Minister] Margaret Hodge and Raymond Blanc, to name but a few.
"Time-poor visitors should head straight for the Innovation Lounges to check out the latest industry innovations care of the Hotelympia Innovation Award finalists.
"These sustainable lounges were created at the request of 2008 visitors to make the most of the ultimate social networking opportunity that Hotelympia offers."
WHERE TO SLEEP, EAT AND DRINK NEAR EXCEL
London Docklands ExCel
9 Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock, Newham, London (150m)
Novotel London ExCel
7 Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock, Newham, London
â- This four-star hotel is 150m from ExCel and close to the O2 arena, Canary Wharf and London City Airport. It has air-conditioned rooms, a gym, sauna and steam room.
272-283 Victoria Dock Road, Newham, London (320m)
â- This 278-bedroom hotel is situated opposite Custom House DLR Station. It offers wireless access in rooms and the lobby areas.
Express By Holiday Inn London-Royal Docks/Docklands
1 Silvertown Way, Canning Town, Newham, Newham, London (1.1km)
â- This budget hotel is 200m from Canning Town Station and close to the O2 arena and ExCel. It has large air-conditioned rooms with power showers.
Radisson Edwardian New Providence Wharf
5 Fairmont Avenue, Tower Hamlets, London (2.25km)
â- This four-star hotel offers free Wi-Fi and a gym. Canary Wharf Tube station is a 10-minute walk away and the O2 arena is near by.
ExCel Centre, 2 Western Gateway, London E16 1DR
Tel 0870 850 0580
â- One of the few watering holes around the ExCel centre, Fox is the place to go for a laid-back pint after an exhausting day of exhibition pounding.
298m from the ExCel exhibition centre (average price for a single two-course meal and a half-bottle of wine, £45)
Unit R1 Warehouse, 2 Western Gateway, London E16 1DR
Tel 020 7474 0808
â- This popular Chinese restaurant (formerly known as Super Star ExCel) changed hands at the beginning of 2008 and its new owners have shaken things up a bit with a revamped menu.
Upper Deck Restaurant & Bar
Novotel London ExCel, Western Gateway, London E16 1AA
Tel 020 7540 9700
â- Located on the first floor of the four-star Novotel, the Upper Deck benefits from full-length windows giving the spacious dining room, done out in understated, neutral colours, a welcoming ambience.
Ramada Hotel & Suites London Docklands, 2 Festoon Way, London E16 1RH
Tel 0870 111 8779
â- Formerly the Waterfront Brasserie, the recently launched Stresa scores with its enviable riverside location, polite service and menu.
17 Western Gateway, London E16 1AQ
Tel 020 7511 2023
â- Capturing the vibrant spirit of the Caribbean in the barren landscape of the Royal Victoria Dock is no easy feat, but this animated and unpretentious restaurant just about manages it.
Docklands Bar & Grill
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Royal Victoria Docks, Western Gateway, London E16 1AL
Tel 020 7055 2119
â- The recently launched restaurant suits its clientele, mainly made up of hotel guests and ExCel exhibition-goers. The safe menu doesn't deviate too much from the tried-and-tested format of familiar starters, sandwiches and grills, but it delivers the goods.
(Thanks to Booking.com and Square Meal)