Be My Guest announces 2019 regional events
The organisers of Be My Guest, the conference and exhibition series dedicated to independent accommodation providers in the UK, have announced they will be staging their first two events of 2019 in the Spring.
The first, the South coast edition, will be held in Bournemouth in February, and the second will take place in Scarborough in North Yorkshire in March.
In its first year of operation the Be My Guest events programme covered a range of regions across the UK including the South coast in Southampton, Southwest England in Torquay, Harrogate in North Yorkshire, Glasgow in Scotland, Carlisle in Northwest England and Skegness in the East Midlands.
Following Bournemouth and Scarborough, the location of the remaining events in 2019 are to be confirmed, but one of these will be in Wales and another in either the Heart of England or East Anglia.
Referring to the coming year’s programme co-director Jim Curry told Luxury Bed & Breakfast magazine: “Bournemouth has a rich history and tradition of hospitality, so we are really looking forward to going down to see the town and putting on a show for the accommodation providers of the south coast region.”
The event will also fill the void left by closure in 2017 of the Hotel Retail and Catering Exhibition, he said. “We think it is the perfect time to come back into that market with a fresh new event for B&B owners in the area. We’re really working hard in order to deliver a fantastic event for them.”
He and event director Diane Lloyd plan to build on the success the various regional events achieved in 2018, he said. “One of the factors behind this format was that the central hubs for events tend to take place in major cities like London or Birmingham. The audience of independent accommodation providers such as luxury B&Bs and inns are hard-working and tied to their property and businesses, and we wanted to ensure that we could create an event that would be of value to them, worthy of a day out but not involving too much travel for them. These were the principles on which we built Be My Guest.”
He added: “In 2019 we are looking to introduce a small farmers’ market of local food and drink manufacturers and producers at each event. We had a great success with the local suppliers at the southwest edition of the event in Torquay and we want to see whether that is something we can build upon.
As the past year’s events were rolled out it turned out to be just the format this particular industry needed, he claimed. “The feedback for our first year has been excellent and the buzz around the events has led to approaches by local tourism offices to run in different areas.
The show programme in its first year was not without its challenges, he said. “We flew up to Glasgow and set up the exhibition hall, went to bed prepared for the event the following day. Then we opened our curtains to see a foot of snow had fallen overnight.
“By this stage the venue was booked and open, so the show had to go on. In the events world there are certain unforeseen situations you can tailor to accommodate and influence, but weather is one where you are beholden to the gods.”
Despite the appalling weather conditions, he said, a young couple who ran a portfolio of holiday rental cottages managed to make their way to the venue that morning, bringing with them their 16-mnonth-old baby. “You have to take your hats off to such people for whom no effort is too great to ensure they are present at their region’s Be My Guest event,” he said.
“Without visitors you don’t have an event, so you have to tailor the show for exactly what they want, whether that is business support, business learning, networking or in the case of independent accommodation providers a combination of all of these,” said Curry.
“On the exhibitor front you have to deliver an ROI for them, and it’s a matter of getting the balance right between meeting the exhibitors’ needs and those of the visitor, and that is something we have managed to achieve this year. We don’t sell against scale but against quality, so we are never going to compete with the big shows that have 5,000 to 10,000 visitors,” he explained. “Many visitors of the big shows are not relevant to the exhibitors – they are tyre-kickers, students and so forth. By contrast everybody who walks through the door of Be My Guest is an independent accommodation provider: a decision-maker and a budget holder who is interested in finding new things.”
That rings true at the events, he said. “I had a conversation with an exhibitor who said they were initially hesitant over the figures they had to sell into head office but as a result of the first event we are now going to lock into all the event sin future. That is being true to the model and to the industry.”
The Be My Guest team are always looking to refine the format of the concept, he said. “We are looking at different exhibitor profiles, encompassing big multi-national tech players, local destinations and industry-specific exhibitors such as professional catering or linen suppliers. We are looking at a whole host of options on the 2019 Be My Guest programme. As a result of the success of the first year are being approached by different companies in different sectors to run regional road shows.
“At each event we are learning something new. Despite the well-attended nature of the conference programme in 2018 we always look to improve the speaker line up on each edition and we are always open to suggestions.”
Half a dozen different topics have been suggested on the visitor feedback forms following this year’s events conveying topics what they covered at the next event. “That is what we are looking to build into the Bournemouth and Scarborough editions. We will then see how they work and either include them in editions later in the year,” he said.
The 2018 conference programme included presentations by Vicky Parr from Visit England, explaining the agency’s projects and initiatives to help independent guest house owners build their business; from Krishan Kadodwala form Expedia Group delving into the data on accommodation businesses; from Google Digital Garage, from Kate Morel at the Glamping Guru; Tina Boden The Tiny Troubleshooter; B&B business success coach Yvonne Halling on beating cashflow blues; and from chairman of the Bed & Breakfast Association David Weston on the challenges and opportunities of the UK’s break from the European Union.
Be My Guest is also looking to step up it focus on the glamping experience, he said. “It is a market with great traction, one we are really keen on, and with great scope. It ranges from the canvas teepee or the shepherd’s hut to high-end glamping pods that require planning permission. Glamping is one of those areas like the farmers market that is of interest to us. It is not of interest to every visitor to the events, but interest is certainly growing in this field (excuse the pun). It’s still work in progress.
“We are really keen to build upon the early success that we have had in 2018,” concluded Jim.
The event organisers will also be partnering with Home Away for a short-stay event in London in March 2019 dedicated to the growing trend in hospitality, property and technology for serviced accommodation holiday rental property owners for which he says there is a certain amount of overlap with Be My Guest.