With so many sporting events still shut down and no further news on the restriction of mass gatherings, I not surprised by the GMA’s announcement of the postponement this year’s November SALTEX at the NEC.
We can all understand their valid reasons for the decision. In their statement last Tuesday (19th May) they explained their actions, saying, “In light of continued restrictions surrounding mass gatherings, combined with the unprecedented impact on all of us from Covid-19, the Grounds Management Association’s (GMA) Board of Directors has taken the unanimous decision to move SALTEX to early Spring 2021. This outcome has been guided by discussions with key industry bodies, as well as exhibitors. Like everyone else, the GMA has continued to follow Government guidance, and the science involved, to guide its business during this unprecedented time. Despite early optimism, a decision has been made to move the exhibition to March 2021 – taking into account the best interests of all parties involved."
You can read the rest of what the GMA had to say, here.
For me, it raises many further questions about our industry shows and how we may need to move forward regarding their timing and format - and indeed it may even lead to an opportunity to develop a single show format, that many have spoken about for years.
With the GMA being forced to move SALTEX where does that leave BIGGA with their popular BTME event in Harrogate next January?
I managed to speak to a representative of BIGGA who told me they are still hoping their show will go on as planned, but was keen to point out that they been having regular discussions with the Harrogate International Centre on what could lie ahead.
In an official statement they said, “BIGGA is incredibly proud that the Harrogate Convention Centre, which hosts BTME each year, has been established as an NHS Nightingale Hospital, ready to accept patients relating to the coronavirus pandemic, should the need arise.
“We’ve been in constant contact with the team at the convention centre throughout this period and their hard work and openness through a difficult period should be applauded.
“We’re continuing to progress with our plans for hosting BTME and Continue to Learn, such as the recent launch of the Member’s Choice survey, but we are also putting contingency plans in place should it not be possible to host a gathering of 6,000 industry representatives from across the globe next January.” Therefore, we must watch this space.
It will be interesting on how it all pans out. Will, BTME Harrogate be forced to move dates? Will SALTEX prosper in its new year March slot? March is usually a very busy time for grounds professionals, so will exhibitors be able to support both shows after suffering such a tough time during this Covid-19 pandemic?
I enjoy attending both shows as they offer different opportunities. BTME is centred around the golf greenkeeping industry offering training and education along with exhibitors showing off the latest range of industry machinery, products and services. Coupled with the fact that Harrogate offers a unique networking experience in and amongst all the bars, restaurants, and cafes.
SALTEX on the other hand, is focussed on the more general sports, football, rugby, cricket, tennis and bowls, along with catering for local authorities, schools and landscape professionals – being held at the NEC Birmingham. Again, SALTEX delivers education and training along with showcasing over 500 exhibitors.
The attendance figures for both most recent shows tell an interesting story. BIGGA declared that they welcomed 4,500 individual delegates into the halls of the Harrogate Convention Centre last January.
Whereas, the organisers of the SALTEX exhibition described last year’s attendance as "record breaking" with 9,104 visitors in attendance over the two-day show.
I passionately believe we as a land-based industry should be seeing a lot more people attending these shows. Especially when you consider the many thousands of people who are employed and work in this worldwide diverse sports turf / horticulture industry.
I also spoke to David Withers at ISEKI who said it was inevitable that Covid-19 may affect the shows - but was keen to state that they as a company would be continuing to support shows. However, personally for many years he himself has being campaigning for a single show format bringing both BIGGA and GMA together for the good of the industry.
As for touting for a one industry show, I myself, along with many others, have campaigned for this over many years.
I do understand their reasons, why both GMA and BIGGA are wanting to retain their separate shows. Both shows are at present centred around the needs of their members and the greater good of our industry and they both raise much needed funds for both organisations.
Our industry is constantly moving forward. New technologies and advancement in video / virtual conferencing along with many new ways of working and the fact we now have access to many social media platforms will no doubt influence the way we conduct business in the future. Covid-19 has already started this process and in fact may over time have a greater influence on the future of our two industry shows.
I personally think that the aftermath of Covid-19 will force a rethink and bring about many changes to the way we work and promote our industry. I would like to see a coming together of both the GMA and BIGGA and maybe look at attracting other potential horticultural organisations to create a new show that ticks all the boxes.
Any new single show should include indoor and outdoor exhibition areas plus training and education seminars - effectively a single show taking on all the positive facets of the current shows, while still enabling both parties to earn their much needed income streams.
We as an industry should be able to facilitate an annual three day UK / international trade show that has the capability to attract well over 20,000 attendees.
This would make it a worthwhile show for all concerned, while at the same time enabling us to promote and attract new blood into the industry.