Putting the screws on

If you mean to profit, learn to please

So we’re in a recession. Well someone ought to tell the hotel industry. Especially those ones in close proximity to popular destinations. Like the NEC.

Interbuild this year has taken up three halls, considerably fewer than in previous years and it strikes me that not only do exhibition organisers have to fight against the current market conditions, but also the seemingly inexorable rise in ancillary costs.

20 years ago, it was the done thing to stay in fancy four star hotels when staying at exhibitions, on the grounds that if you were taking people away from home for a week, then you should give them somewhere nice to stay. Now, it’s the Premier Inns, the Travelodges and the Express by Holiday Inns: so-called budget chains that sprang up in the intervening years to cater for the business traveller market.

Somewehere along the line the budget concept seems to have been forgotten, at least at this year’s NEC it does.

The advertised room rate behind the reception desk at the Express by Holiday Inn next to the NEC is £250. That includes a self-service continental breakfast, although they will take the trays away if you leave them long enough, but not car parking which is another £7 per car per day. I know people who stayed at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on Saturday night who paid less than that. Even companies who booked the Express six months ago have ended up paying £145 a night.

A friend who works for an exhibitions company told me of one client who, having booked and paid for a £30,000 stand pulled out of the show at the last minute citing those ancillary costs. Apparently they worked out that it would cost them another £30,000 to man the stand, house and feed the reps for a week and have them off the road as well. To companies that are starting to count every penny it just doesn’t make financial sense to be at these events.

Visitors too, are starting to feel the pinch. Whereas a few years ago they would have spent at least two days and one night at the show, many people are just spending a day there, citing the need to get back to the business and get out of spending a small fortune on a hotel for the night.

I know UK hotels at exhibition sites aren’t alone in racking up their rates for shows (try getting a hotel in Frankfurt for ISH) and it’s company money not individuals who pay, but when everyone is having to think carefully about costs, this kind of profiteering, is really not helping.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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