Olympia London wants to become “the UK’s busiest major event venue”, Nigel Nathan, group managing director of the venue and neighbouring Earls Court has revealed.
The declaration - and challenge to Excel London among others - comes following a well-documented period of change at the venue, with the planned disposal of Earls Court and the incorporation of some of its shows to a W14 postcode.
Media 10’s Ideal Home Show and Reed’s London Book Fair are among the trade and consumer shows moving from Earls Court to Olympia in 2015.
Clarion Events also announced the move of its Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show.
International Confex moved to Olympia from Excel London this year. The show had previously been held at Earls Court before moving to Excel in 2012.
“Historically, we’ve been compared with Excel as ‘Earls Court and Olympia London’. In future, it will be just Olympia London, which is exciting, finally putting the venue by itself in the premier league, exactly what we’ve been working and building towards,” Nathan told EN.
“Our vision is for Olympia to become the UK’s busiest major event venue, which figures and growth support. The key differentiators of Olympia and Excel are location and heritage. Being in west London gives us a competitive advantage. We know that organisers have stayed with us and transferred shows to Olympia because they like the central location and are familiar with the area.”
In 2013 the venue celebrated 125 years with £30 million worth of investment and the launch of Olympia West to further pitch it against its big east London rival. A recent coup was the return to Olympia of the London Wine Fair organised by Brintex after 13 years at Excel.
“Excel is a new venue that is excellent at what it does, but it can’t offer the central location or heritage,” added Nathan. “That alters the sorts of events you attract and the events that flourish there. We’ve had shows return to Olympia from Excel and perform stronger – the Wine Fair increased its visitor numbers by 11 per cent on its return to Olympia London. There’s a similar trend with Toy Fair and Confex, both came back to Olympia to great acclaim.”
Nathan said that launch shows Clinical and Cosmetic Reconstructive Expo, which debuted at Olympia National and The Commercial UAV Show, which launches in Olympia Central this November, demonstrate that the venue’s flexible spaces attract and accommodate small to medium-sized shows with growth potential.
“In terms of content, we have a high quota of trade and consumer events in luxury, investment and property sectors, including the first Mipim real estate show, which debuts in London at Olympia, arriving from Cannes. These are economically strong growth sectors and therefore represent a strong and stable component of our calendar,” said Nathan.
In all, 178 shows are either contracted or shortly to be confirmed for Olympia in 2015, a 30 per cent increase from 2014. In all, 80 per cent of exhibitions from Earls Court have moved to Olympia London.
“We can take more shows,” said halls director Gillian Kiamil. “We can have up to five events in a week. But we can’t always fit everyone in.”
The venue has recently won planning permission for the next phase for Olympia London. The new developments would include the creation of a new boutique hotel providing direct links to the Olympia’s exhibition and conference facilities. The venue is also considering the replacement of the existing Olympia Grand entrance and improvements to Olympia Way.
In the last 12 months, Olympia has introduced new signage in a neutral grey, completed the new floor and entrance to the National Hall new entrance to Olympia Central and Olympia Conference Centre and completed a new floor and entrance to the National Hall.
In addition, it has restored the canopy of Olympia Central to its original copper colouring with the support of English Heritage, invested in a new production kitchen and two refurbished and rebranded outlets at Olympia Central: Slice and Central Kitchen.
In response, Excel London executive director Jeremy Rees said the venue in 2014 will host nearly 100 exhibitions compared to just over 60 last year.
“The events at the venue last year attracted 3.6 million visitors, delivered an economic impact of £2.9 billion and was directly responsible for attracting a quarter of all of London’s inbound business tourism,” he said.
“Our vision is to be The Home of World Leading Events. This demands that we have the very best physical infrastructure that is flexible, modern, technologically advanced and suited to today’s exhibition, congress and corporate markets. The key differentiators for Excel that I am most proud of are the quality of shows that we host and the quality of staff at the venue. Both are world class and will allow us to innovate and drive further value for London, our customers and of course our owners ADNEC.”
Meanwhile at The NEC, for the financial year 2014/15, it has 138 exhibitions planned, with an average show size of 16,500sqm. This adds up to a total of 17.3 million square metres used for exhibitions. In addition, it expects to have 2.1 million visitors and an additional 391 conferences and live events.
Clearly the battle for venue supremacy in the UK has begun.
Olympia London –venue spaces
Olympia Grand Ã¢â€”â€¹ Grade II-listedÃ¢â€”â€¹ Largest venue at 14,355sqm Ã¢â€”â€¹ Maximum Capacity: 10,000
Olympia NationalÃ¢â€”â€¹ Second largest venue at 8,730sqm Ã¢â€”â€¹ Maximum Capacity: 4,800
Olympia CentralÃ¢â€”â€¹ Set over two floors and ideal for launch eventsÃ¢â€”â€¹ Largest combined venue at 8,929sqm Ã¢â€”â€¹ Level One links in with Olympia West and National – aimed at events that can grow into the venue’s larger spaces
Olympia WestÃ¢â€”â€¹ Two levels of space that can be used independently or as oneÃ¢â€”â€¹ 7,688sqm Ã¢â€”â€¹ Links to Olympia Grand and Central halls
Olympia Conference CentreÃ¢â€”â€¹ Purpose-built conference facility with auditorium, reception, exhibition area and breakout rooms on one level
This was first published in the July issue of EN. Any comments? Email Annie Byrne