Taste of Success
by Annie Byrne
Harrogate International Centre (HIC) has set a four-point plan of ambitious targets in a bid to cement its place as a leading exhibition venue in the North.The venue has revealed to EN that it plans to secure a minimum of 70 per cent repeat business, achieve three-year contracts for its 20 key accounts, allocate a fifth of its income from tenancy and additional services to re-invest in the venue and increase tenancy year-on-year.HIC’s biggest and longest running shows are Christmas & Gift organised by Harrogate Christmas & Gift and Clarion’s Home & Gift, which have been coming to the venue for 64 and 52 years respectively.The venue, which hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1982, boasts 15,000sqm of exhibition space, including its 2,000-seat main auditorium and the Royal Hall, which recently had an £8million restoration.
Infrastructure UpgradesIn infrastructure terms, the venue has been working hard. “In July we went completely in-house with our Wi-Fi after experiencing various difficulties with outside suppliers,” says HIC media relations manager Richard Catton. “Our head of IT designed and built a Wi-Fi system to cover the whole site through a network of more than 70 wireless points. It was switched on at the end of June and has had universal praise from organisers and delegates.”Significant infrastructure upgrades have included the building of Halls H and G, which opened in January 2012 and provided another 3,000sqm of exhibition and event space. HIC Yorkshire also has a 107-room Premier Inn opening on site in September. This will include direct access into the venue. Other investments include major overhaul of catering points and two new permanent food mini-markets.
Hungry for MoreA recent big win was the first BBC Good Food Show Spring hosted by River Street Events on 25-27 April. The event was “the best opening for a consumer show in the last 10 years” according to HIC director Simon Kent.The exhibition attracted more than 15,000 visitors and 136 exhibitors and returns next year.“Bringing the BBC Good Food Show to Harrogate has been one of the high points here at the HIC,” says Kent. Delivering The GoodsThe venue has sought to streamline its pricing packages for organisers. “They want to have as much organised by the venue as possible. Hidden costs are a big no-no, not just with organisers but also with exhibitors and visitors,” says Catton. “We will soon launch our HIC Yorkshire Ambassador Programme in which we will be encouraging and supporting professionals and academics to help bring their events to us.“We have also brought in a specialist agency to gather feedback from visitors, exhibitors and organisers, while they are here at events. This is so we can build up a large detailed database of what our clients want, but also means we can react to issues arather than hearing about it days or weeks later when someone returns a feedback form.”
Making A MarkFor the forthcoming Tattoo Royal exhibition later this year, a brave member of HIC’s sales team went to new lengths for a contract win.Eager to lure one of the UK’s newest tattoo exhibitions, sales manager Rebecca Turnbull agreed to have her first tattoo at the show if organisers agreed to host the event there. As a result, Tattoo Royale 2014 will take place on 25-26 October at the venue.“It was a complete spur-of-the-moment thing,” says Turnbull. “No thought went into it before I uttered the words. I was in a meeting with three of the organisers and they thought it was a brilliant idea and at that point I knew there was no going back. When they signed the contract a week later I realised it was time to start thinking about a design.”That’s sure one way to ink a deal.
This article first appeared in the September 2014 edition of Exhibition News.