BY MEGAN TOMPKINS
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CA—Interbike will decide in the coming months where the industry will gather for its annual event starting in 2010. Along with Las Vegas, Interbike’s home for the past 10 years, Denver and Anaheim are on the table.
Lance Camisasca, Interbike’s industry consultant, shared these options for future event locations as part of a breakfast presentation last month during the Bicycle Leadership Conference.
During the presentation, Camisasca reviewed key market criteria it considers when selecting a show venue. Interbike’s top venue requirements include: • Contiguous exhibit space of at least 700,000 gross square feet and ample meeting room space;
• A location where retailer and manufacturer attendance can be maximized;
• A large and diverse selection of hotels, restaurants and entertainment options conveniently located;
• An international airport located within close proximity with many flight options, numerous carriers and low airfare rates;
• Relaxed labor union regulations and high-quality services;
• An Outdoor Demo site with great weather, extensive cross-country/downhill trails and a closed road loop, and;
• An event market that is recognized as a cycling culture destination.
Camisasca explained that Interbike’s long-term contract with the Sands Convention Center runs through the 2009 show, and Interbike is considering whether to renew the contract or move the show to another location.
Denver and Anaheim are the two cities that come closest to meeting all the requirements to host Interbike. Both cities have the contiguous space needed, would provide a diverse selection of restaurants, hotels and entertainment options, are located in areas that would maximize attendance and are recognized as cycling culture destinations.
Camisasca at last year’s BLC presented Salt Lake City as another option, but Interbike has since ruled it out.
“Denver and Anaheim, and of course Las Vegas, are the only viable options,” Camisasca said. “SLC has been all but completely eliminated from the radar due to its inability to host 3,100 booths in the fashion that we are accustomed to, plus some other shortcomings.”
The Strip. Las Vegas meets six out of seven of Interbike’s top requirements including, surprisingly, relaxed union regulations and high-quality services. It has set the bar high by offering a plethora of conveniences. It is not, however, recognized as a cycling-friendly destination. “That is probably where it falls short,” Camisasca said.
Still, Vegas is tough to beat. But Camisasca said venue issues could arise that would make it less desirable. Unconfirmed rumors have circulated that the Sands Convention Center could be torn down. It might be rebuilt in the same location or in a different location, or torn down entirely. But in the interim, the show would likely move to the Las Vegas Convention Center if the industry chose to stay in Las Vegas.
“We have to understand what the future is of the Sands. If we continue to do our research, and it’s confirmed that the future of the Sands Expo is in question, then the only option would be the LVCC,” Camisasca said. “To me, that’s making a move laterally to a lesser property. It’s not contiguous space—it’s on multiple floors and wings—and it’s in a C-rate hotel environment off the strip.”
But Camisasca said his greater concern is that Las Vegas has lost its allure among the industry. “There is waning interest in Vegas,” Camisasca said, adding that 2009 will mark 12 years that Interbike has been held there.
Mile High City. Denver has become a stronger option as a result of recent construction and expansion downtown.
The city’s new convention center has adequate contiguous floor space and ample meeting rooms. It offers good possibilities for Outdoor Demo and potential for a public day. Plus, the central U.S. location makes it accessible to retailers across the country. “There is something attractive about the middle of the country. The perceived mindset is it is easier to get to,” Camisasca said.
However, its union labor is less skilled and works more slowly, which could mean longer service charges and additional expense. “I can say from first-hand experience, Denver needs better labor,” said Camisasca, who stages the Health & Fitness Business show there.
Denver also is an unproven facility and market for an event as large as Interbike. It continues to add beds, restaurants and taxis but may fall short of accommodating Interbike’s 23,000 attendees. SIA will move its snowsports trade show to Denver in 2010, which may indicate whether the city is equipped to handle a trade event of similar size.
“Denver is a much more bicycle-friendly city than Las Vegas, Salt Lake City or Anaheim, and the Outdoor Demo options near Denver are excellent,” said Tim Blumenthal, executive director of the Bikes Belong Coalition. “However, I’m concerned about the hotels and transportation as Denver has not handled a show of Interbike’s size before. So at this point I would say yes to Anaheim for the next three or four years, with a plan to move to Denver after that.”
City of Angels. Anaheim has recently renovated its convention center with state-of-the-art facilities. It has cleaned up existing restaurants, added new dining and entertainment options such as Downtown Disney and GardenWalk, and introduced high-end eateries nearby. Disneyland also is a draw for attendees with families.
Anaheim is serviced by three regional airports and the Los Angeles International Airport, which would help maintain international attendance. And it would garner strong drive-in traffic from Southern California retailers.
But there is a perception that the location is too West Coast and the show would lose eastern retailers.
And Anaheim has a stigma among industry members that attended shows there years ago. Interbike was held in Anaheim for seven years until 1997 when it moved to Las Vegas.
“That was the last year before the major renovations,” Camisasca said. “The city was pretty rundown, there was a lack of hotels, and there was virtually no meeting space.”
Anaheim Convention Center officials have been courting Interbike. And they could partner to help market the industry.
“Anaheim reached out to us in a big way,” Camisasca said. “They like the fit of our product—they are trying to find shows that are greener than others, and are working toward sustainability,” Camisasca said.
The convention center has introduced sustainable plans and organic food options and attracted other green industry shows such as the Natural Products Expo West.
“I have to admit a personal bias that the Anaheim shows of previous years were not all that great,” said Tim Jackson, brand manager for Masi Bikes. “But given the needs of the show and the industry, Anaheim is looking a lot better. With a newly remodeled and really gorgeous convention center and an eagerness from the city to lure the industry back, Anaheim is rapidly becoming a contender for me. When you add in the already existing infrastructure—they’re harder to beat all the time.”
Decision Deadline. Interbike’s recommendation is Anaheim for 2010. But according to Camisasca, Interbike has not made a decision about moving the show. It will need to select a location by mid-year to negotiate a contract and secure optimal dates.
Camisasca said Interbike will aim to sign a short-term deal. Its parent company, Nielsen Business Media, which produces more than 50 trade shows, should give it some bargaining power.
As part of its ongoing research, Interbike will continue to reach out to retailers, industry groups and other industry members before making a decision about the future venue for the show.
“Over the next the six months more research is definitely needed. We are getting a good sense of what major exhibitors want to do but we have to reach out to a few more exhibitors and better understand what retailer opinion is,” Camisasca said.
One thing is certain: Interbike isn’t taking this decision lightly. Camisasca recognizes that location has a strong bearing on the success of a show.
“First and foremost you’ve got to build a great show, and you’ve got to give people a compelling reason to come,” he said. “But where it’s located, the attractiveness of the market, and the convenience of where you fly in and out make a difference. You can build a great show and put it in Orlando and I’m convinced attendance would drop off.”