EN tackles The Great Debate at Confex

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The UK's three main exhibition venues are operating at between 20-40 per cent occupancy for exhibitions, the NEC's Kathryn James told the Exhibition News Great Debate at Confex.Exhibition News publisher Mark Brewster asked an industry panel of organisers, venue representatives and contractors whether there was an oversupply of exhibition space and what that could imply for business.Clarion's Simon Kimble said it was "great for organisers, but sadly not great for venues", while MD of M2 Events Mark Moloney, pictured, said the current capacity was needed, particularly on shows moving around. "We need the infrastructure"."London is a great city," said Moloney, "but there are arguably only two venue groups and the supply is poor. You can't launch a show in the peak months."Glasgow-based QD Events' Fran McIntyre told the forum that there was no over-supply in Scotland, however, and thought the issue could be phrased as "an under-supply of events".Kimble urged venues to invest: "Poor quality events do no one any favours".McIntyre noted that venues in Scotland were being more creative and sharing revenue risk with organisers to encourage more business in difficult times.As to the question of whether exhibitors were being exploited with service charges, Moloney admitted organisers had not really stood up for exhibitors' interests enough with electrical charges at venues which, he said, were "excessive".Early Action Group's Steve Barratt said from the contractor viewpoint that the UK was over 40 per cent more expensive than Europe for exhibitions. "We've got to change or everyone will be going to Paris on the train," he said.The panel touched on the likely closure of Earls Court exhibition halls post-2012, but generally welcomed new, modern capacity, such as the Bluewater events venue project which Kimble said would be "particularly for international clients and brands".Moloney said any plan to close Earls Court by owners Capital and Counties would be "an absolute disaster” for London.
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