One year on from the launch of the new permanent Hall 1 at Farnborough, venue director Michael Watton reflects on the impact it has had for organisers and visitors.
Before Farnborough’s new permanent Hall 1 launched at the start of last year, Watton spend much of 2017 selling event organisers a dream, conducting sites tours around a venue still under construction and painting a picture of what the finished product would be able to offer as a multipurpose events space. And, it seems, he did a pretty good job.
“When I saw the plans for Farnborough, I knew instantly that this was a great development opportunity for the Homebuilding & Renovating brand,” comments Nick Noble, commercial and events director at Future, one of the first organisers to hold an event in the new venue. “The location lends itself fantastically well to what we need to launch a show that has longevity. I instantly had trust in what they were promising which is why I signed up to the venue well before the building was finished.
“The facility itself is hugely impressive. When our exhibitors walked in they were blown away with the professional feel of the venue. Of course, there are minor improvements that can always be made and what is refreshing is Michael and the team’s willingness to adapt accordingly. I already see a longstanding relationship with the venue, so much so, that we are about to sign a three-year contract to enable us to develop the show to the next level.”
Farnborough and HB&R are a perfect match, adds Watton, due to the high-quality potential consumer audience around the venue.
“Our demographic is way above the norm in terms of socio-economic profiling within the UK,” he explains. “It’s very affluent, it’s very influential and delivering that audience is a key factor that we can demonstrate to our clients.
“There’s no better example of that than Homebuilding and Renovating. Nick and the team at Future were very quick to realise the potential of holding another geographic version of their very successful product here to deliver a new audience. And they delivered way above expectations.”
The main challenge of transitioning into the new venue was largely the change itself, Watton continues.
“Moving from a temporary structure to a permanent building obviously brings a lot more home comfort and advantages,” he says. “The changeover was a big challenge, but that change has happened now, so the shows are growing and improving.
“We’re all creatures of habit, so to go into a new environment you’ve got to change your behaviours. But the fundamental experience of going to an exhibition and talking to your customers didn’t change.”
The venue has also welcomed a range of new business, including the Vertical Flight Expo, which will be making use of the venue’s ability to accommodate demonstrations and aircraft, and logistics event ITT Hub 2020, a new launch from Binswood Media focusing on technology and innovation in the heavy transport sector.
“In the long term we want to become known for what the location here can deliver,” continues Watton. “We’re known for aerospace and we want to expand that into the science and technology sectors. We’re very close by the what is effectively UK Silicon Valley, there is a high proportion of high-tech industries in our local market.
One year on from the launch of the new venue, Watton is optimistic about the future.
“We’ve proved the concept,” he concludes. “Now it’s about demonstrating the growth that that proof of concept will bring.” EN