INTERNATIONAL VENUES: The world's a stage - As global competition continues to grow, exhibition centres are becoming more ambitious in their designs. Dave Saunders selects a few of the best and gauges the organisers' responses

Exhibition organisers are benefiting from increasing global competition between exhibition centres. The proliferation of new, high-tech facilities ensures a wide choice of venue - each one boasting high technical and service standards. Here are a few standouts from around the globe.

Exhibition organisers are benefiting from increasing global competition between exhibition centres. The proliferation of new, high-tech facilities ensures a wide choice of venue - each one boasting high technical and service standards. Here are a few standouts from around the globe.

Expocentr, Moscow

This month alone ITE has arranged the exhibitions Moda 2001, Sport and Leisure Boats, Scooters and Yachts 2001, Travel and Tourism 2001 and a show of Building, Interiors, Heating and Ventilation, Fire Safety and Security in Construction.

Organiser: ITE

'Expocentr, in the business district of Moscow, is remarkable because of where it is - in Russia,' says ITE chairman Lawrie Lewis. 'Its appearance and the level of service provided are identical to a similar exhibition centre in Western Europe, and that's surprising for Russia.

'The venue's occupancy is about 85%. This has increased from 0% in 1991 prior to the introduction of Perestroika. It accounts for about half of all exhibition space sold in Russia. And with a domestic population of 200 million, there is great opportunity for further growth,' Leiws concludes.

Warsaw International Expocentre (WIEC), Poland

The WIEC boasts 9,500sqm of pillar-less space, suitable for shows, conferences, seminars, meetings and banquets. The versatile, multi-functional centre has three halls and can hold up to ten events simultaneously, including conference facilities hosting up to 500. It is built in the redeveloped section of the Wola district, 2km from the centre of Warsaw and 15 minutes from Okecie International Airport. More than 25 shows have been booked prior to the spring 2001 opening, including ExpoBuild in October and Warsaw International Motor Show in November.

Organiser: Expocentres

'The WIEC is the first purpose-built 'smart' venue in Poland,' says Expocentres Group chairman Roger Shashoua. Expocentres' mission is to provide smaller, state-of-the-art facilities (similar to WIEC) that cater to the industry's demand for more space in cities across Central and Eastern Europe.

Expocentres is developing similar sites in Budapest, Prague and New Delhi.

'We offer theme exclusivity and title protection to organisers who may not always have the opportunity to hold events at more established venues,' says Shashoua.

Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Centre (MECC), Australia

Last year, MECC was voted the best congress centre in the world in 2000 by the Association Internationales des Palais de Congres. The facility boasts the largest display area in the southern hemisphere, with 30,000sqm of uninterrupted space on one level. The centre has just completed a Adollars 26m (pounds 9.6m) upgrade, including a host of technical improvements allowing better connectivity for clients using the latest Internet and broadcasting facilities.

Sales and marketing director Petrina Gillespie explains that the MECC's position as an industry leader has been achieved through a combination of hard work, experience and a 'can do' culture which is evident throughout the entire organisation. 'The centre is renowned for its flexibility and versatility,' she says.

Major exhibitions this year include the UK-based Good Food Show in June, coming to Australia for the first time and the 6th World Chemical Engineering Conference in September.

Organiser: Exhibition Management

'The Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre is the best exhibition venue in Australia,' says Exhibition Management managing director John Kelly, following its 2000 exhibition, Wine Australia. 'Access and service elements are second to none. The understanding by the centre's management of what you want to achieve is unique. Everything is hassle-free. Good access, power supplies and convenient loading bays means we save at least two days' setting-up time.'

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC)

Hong Kong is the top destination for visitor arrivals on a global basis in the Asia-Pacific region. The HKCEC, which stands on Victoria Harbour, held 2,500 events in 2000, including 100 major exhibitions, attracting five million visitors.

A priority of the centre is to provide a team of professional staff who understand the logistics behind each exhibition and flexible enough to work with organisers from different cultures and backgrounds.

'We believe that our infrastructure is second-to-none,' says HKCEC director of business development Allen Ha. 'We place great emphasis on having a service culture and a 'can-do' attitude.'

Organiser: Miller Freeman Asia

'There are many reasons why I like the HKCEC,' says Miller Freeman Asia president and chief executive officer Peter Sutton. 'It is in the middle of the city, has an attractive design on a man-made island in the harbour, it is well integrated with the convention centre, has lots of light and space and the halls are big enough for most events and conferences. There are some disadvantages which could have been avoided if an event organiser had had more involvement in design. The halls are too far apart for big events so the connecting concourses need to be filled with booths to lead visitors around the show and create the necessary buzz.'

Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre (SICEC)

The SICEC is one of the largest purpose-built convention and exhibition venues in the Asia-Pacific region. It attracted 1,271 events during 2000, including 282 shows. This May, the centre will be occupied with SEMICON Singapore 2001 - a major exhibition for Southeast Asia's semiconductor industry. And in August IT conference and exhibition Sapphire 2001 - will take up 22,600sqm of floor space.

The centre is a five-minute drive from the Central Business District and 20 minutes from Changi International Airport. The surrounding area - the Marina Centre - offers an events infrastructure that is unsurpassed by other destinations in the world, with more than 5,000 hotel rooms, 1,000 retail outlets and 300 restaurants.

The centre works with the Singapore Tourism Board and other industry partners in a joint-advertising campaign, targeting groups of 1,500 and above.

'This is the optimum size that maximises benefits for all of us - SICEC, the hotels and other partners - and minimises the risk of losing the business to other venues overseas,' says Adrienne Tho, PR and marcoms manager.

Messe Frankfurt, Germany

Frankfurt lies at the crossroads of major air, rail and road routes.

It is a small commercial and manufacturing city with a prodigious reputation for successful exhibitions and conventions. Trade fairs have been held here since 1240, when the emperor granted this privilege to the city.

The annual Frankfurt Book Fair is probably the best known to Britons.

The Congress Center (Messe Frankfurt) is the main trade show and convention centre. It opened in 1997 and features 290,000sqm of covered exhibition space, including the large multi-functional Harmonie Hall with 15,000sqm of exhibition space, and direct access to the 10,000sqm exhibition hall 5.1. Its telescopic steel walls and retractable tiered seats makes it extremely flexible.

Messe Frankfurt is being enlarged in response to increasing demand. The new Forum is due to open in July 2001 and the International Automobile Ausstellung (Exhibition) will take place there in September. New exhibition Hall No 3 is also due to open in July 2001. The whole complex will hold up to 60,000.

Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), Orlando, Florida

The OCCC has a lot going for it. 'Orlando is the number one visitor destination in the world,' says OCCC executive director Tom Ackert. 'The centre is in the tourism and entertainment district between Disney World and Universal Florida. One of the finest airports in the world is just a ten-minute drive from the centre and we benefit from low-cost direct flights.

'The centre has a 93,000sqm exhibition hall that we are more than doubling in size by October 2003, giving us almost 205,000sqm of exhibition space, as well as additional meeting rooms and other amenities. There are 100,000 hotel rooms In the vicinity, and a further 5,000 are planned, 4,000 of which will be physically connected to the convention centre.'

Organiser: Reed Exhibitions

'Many halls may look good from a design point of view, but from a user perspective they fall short,' says Reed Exhibitions managing director Mike Rusbridge. 'Orlando - and Sydney - manage to successfully combine the criteria of functionality, infrastructure, service levels, design of halls and flexibility.'

Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC)

'Since the DWTC opened in 1979 it has become a symbol of economic growth and prosperity in the Middle East,' says DWTC communications coordinator Sameena Sabunwala. 'The DWTC is the biggest and most prestigious exhibition centre in the Middle East, and one of Dubai's premier landmarks.'

The DWTC comprises a 39-storey office tower, seven purpose-built exhibition halls providing about 33,000sqm of floor space. In May 2001, Reed Exhibitions is running the Arabian Travel Market - an exhibition for travel and tourism for the Middle East. The DWTC also manages Airport Expo Dubai, the latest exhibition venue in the Middle East, with a gross exhibition area of more than 23,000sqm.

'The professional expertise of the centre, combined with a worldwide network of business contacts, has guaranteed the success of its exhibitions,' continues Sabunwala.

'The success of our exhibition business contributes significantly to the success of Dubai in establishing its reputation as the business hub of the Middle East and neighbouring countries.'

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