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Loud and Proud

by Nicola Macdonald

EN catches up with Reed Exhibitions to learn more about the organiser’s new B2B launch.

Near the end of 2017, Reed Exhibitions announced it was launching a B2B travel event with a difference.

Proud Experiences will take place in Summer in 2018, and will be aimed specifically at the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) travel industry.

“We noticed a massive emerging powerful market on a global scale,” says event manager Gareth Baguley. “At the beginning we didn’t know if it would be big enough for a stand-alone show or whether it could be absorbed as an area in an existing show.

“The more research we did, the more we discovered a real want and need for the event. Not just because of the amount spent on outbound LGBTQ+ travel on a global scale, but also because there’s a real education need for both the exhibitor and buyer perspective.”

By making Proud Experiences its own stand-alone event, Baguley and his team were free to start looking into content and features specific to that market and its needs.

“We really want to focus on not just the important business element of it – the B2B and making sure there’s ROI – but also on filling the education gap with a strong and robust content programme around the whole show.

“The show will offer facts and figures about why it’s such a strong and important market, how it’s growing, where it’s going, and also elements like safety.”

And, with LGBTQ+ specific topics come LGBTQ+ specific buyers and exhibitors.

“If you look at the buyers that we’re bringing to the event, some of them are solely focused on LGBT travel; that’s what they do, that’s their business,” agrees Baguley. “We’re seeing more and more companies pop up like that.

“But then the second the level of buyers are already operating in a mass scale; not solely targeting LGBTQ+ travel but finding they’re catering for more and more LGBTQ+ clients.

“They need to find out how to service them correctly and send them to the right destinations and hotels and learning more about the industry so that they are serving them better. It’s a real mix of those doing it already and developing even further, and those that are finding it is becoming more prevalent for them and who need to learn more.”

The event will be taking place at the Saatchi Gallery, a venue known for hosting high-end, stylish exhibition, product launches and events.

“We settled on Europe because we’re based here, and felt we could deliver a successful show for year one here,” explains Baguley. “We also did a lot of surveying with potential buyers, and Europe came out on top of the survey result. It fell into place for us to do it in London. We looked at different hotels, which are a very easy way of delivering an event, but what we want from this event is for it to be kind of neutral, especially because it’s a travel event. We want the event to be open to everybody and not have any favouritism.

“At the same time, we’re trying to make the event different to other exhibitions; we really wanted a funky, fresh, vibrant, modern base. The Saatchi Gallery really fits that bill.”

Similar to many Reed shows, Proud Experiences will feature hosted buyers as a key component of the event, and Baguley is effusive about the effectiveness of the format.

“The shows in our travel portfolio that have the highest satisfaction ratings and guaranteed ROI for exhibitors – based on our show surveys – the hosted buyer shows always come out on top,” he tells EN. “We find that when we have a hosted buyer event, we’re much more strict with who we bring to the event from a buyer perspective, because we’re investing a huge amount of money to actually host them.

“Because we are hosting them, we have a bit more power over the buyers, and that they are obligated to turn up to who they should turn up to. If they have five or six appointments with exhibitors they’re committed and obligated to fulfilling that appointment. It offers a guarantee to the exhibitor.”

In many ways Proud Experiences is just another B2B travel event, but covering the LGBTQ+ market does have its unique challenges. The terminology itself poses a question for organisers, as various iterations of LGBT, LGBTQ and LGBTQ+ have been used.

“We really had to think about it,” agrees Baguley. “The show is about being inclusive and the last thing we want to do is offend anybody. We’re trying to keep it current with our terminology.

“But then the more research we did we saw that more and more people are starting to add the ‘Q’, and we felt that was a real encompassing letter and that it was something we should include, as well as the plus; we don’t to leave anyone out. We know that things change quite quickly, and that acronyms can suddenly change. We keep the plus to ensure we are being absolutely inclusive. That’s what this event is all about for us.”

Proud Experiences will take place on 6-8 June 2018 at the Saatchi Gallery.

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