A ray of sunshine

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There’s no doubt the recession affected every industry in one way or another. But luxury markets, such as property investment, were among the hardest hit. It was with this looming backdrop that former Brooklands Group MD, Andy Bridge, took over the overseas property exhibition A Place in the Sun Live under newly formed company, APITS.Following the collapse of Brooklands Group in December 2008, Bridge and his former FD instituted a management buyout of A Place in the Sun Live in partnership with the TV show’s production company, Freeform Productions. The sale included two events – Spring at Earls Court and an Autumn show at The NEC – along with plans for sister UK editions including Manchester. “From the point of view of the consumer, nothing has changed. We were able to go through the transition period from Brooklands to APITS without missing an exhibition,” Bridge told EN. “It’s the same brand, same Channel 4 licence, on-air support, deals in place with the TV celebrities and we were fortunate enough to secure the same venue tenancies.” Reality check However, the size and content of A Place in the Sun Live has undergone significant upheaval in the past two years to reflect reduced numbers of prospective overseas property buyers. Total hall space decreased by up to one-third, while visitors dropped from highs of 21,000 in 2006 to 4,100 in 2010. Bridge claimed up to 75 per cent of overseas property agents had exited the market.“Over the last 24 months, people’s appetite for overseas properties has diminished,” he said. “As a result, our show has had to change in line with that. The yield has reduced in line with lower exhibitor budgets.” Under Brooklands, A Place in the Sun retained a large lifestyle element aimed at entertaining visitors and increasing dwell times. These features have given way to in-depth seminars.“The fact that we have a smaller, information hungry audience means seminars with in-depth content are of more interest than entertainment features such as a casino,” Bridge said.“Our new strategy is to engage the buyer and give them deeper, focused overseas information because people are more cautious but generally more committed to buying overseas.”APITS introduced bespoke country ‘villages’ for France, Portugal and Spain with extended full-day seminar programmes. A new Florida pavilion will be rolled out in 2011. The organiser also continues to run a broad seminar theatre providing buyer advice and insight into destinations such as Turkey, Cyprus and Italy. A push in early 2009 to garner traffic from the co-located Ideal Home Show has also been consciously abandoned in order to knuckle down on relevant visitors. “We initially wanted volume of visitors, but our exhibitor surveys showed that while we got a extra 3,500 visitors through from the Ideal Home Show, those closest to the open shutter between the two shows were the least satisfied,” Bridge said. “Our exhibitor clients just aren’t set-up to deal with lots of people wanting goodies – they only bring two staff to the show instead of six and have 1,000 instead of 2,000 giveaways.”Money matters To help keep costs down, APITS instituted new marketing alliance partnerships with non-competitive media, as well as moved more advertising online.“We still do a high-profile print campaign, but we are better attuned to where our visitors are coming from primarily, and we have affiliate partnerships as a result,” Bridge said. In addition, the organiser’s starting plan is not based on revenue, but a forecast of visitors.“We know how many visitors we need per square metre for exhibitors to feel satisfied,” he explained. “Having 4,000 people could be fine, as long as we don’t sell stands expecting 6,000.” The first 2011 A Place in the Sun Live will be held at Earls Court from 11 to 13 March and is expected to get 7,000 visitors. Bridge anticipated revenue will be up 10 per cent year-on-year at Earls Court and The NEC this October.Overseas exhibitors also continue to return to the show, prompted by the rare opportunity to meet prospective buyers face-to-face, he said.“Some exhibitors do print and online advertising, but there’s no real interaction with people,” Bridge said. “With our event, they’re part of a trusted brand, have TV celebrities who are endorsing the idea of buying overseas, plus an event that creates an air of confidence and moves a buyer’s plans forward.”
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