Greater competition for shrinking marketing budgets and time-poor planners are just two reasons why ETF is calling time on Sydney’s Inspire EX exhibition that was scheduled for August 2015.

What was started by the Sydney Convention & Visitors Bureau (now Business Events Sydney) in the mid-1990s, the event was well-attended and highly anticipated each year. It then received a shot in the arm with the addition of the events exhibition RSVP founded by Single Market Events in 2005, which was later purchased by ETF.

For a number of years following, Sydney on Sale, as it was then called, was renamed the Australian Business Events Expo and was co-located with the louder, funkier RSVP.

It worked for a time but its longevity was probably not helped by the fact that the shows ran adjacent to one another in the large and some would say less intimate halls of the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre.

Even a name change to Inspire EX last year that ETF said better described the offering wasn’t enough to save it.

And the torrential weather in 2014 did little to help, with visitor numbers considerably down.

Speaking to micenet AUSTRALIA, Exhibitions & Trade Fairs managing director, Gary Daly, says the decision to close the event has been a tough one.

“It is never easy to close shows, and these decisions are never taken lightly, however, our first objective has to be to deliver quality, profitable and successful shows.

“Recently ETF introduced two new shows to the portfolio and they, together with a strong existing portfolio, meant we needed to commit our resources where we saw the greatest potential for growth and development.”

The end of an era

The event that eventually developed into Inspire EX – Destination One – was a far cry from the most recent show. The highlight was the evening part of the program where up to three event companies and caterers were given free rein to theme a space as big as they wished in old warehouses on the city side of Darling Harbour (roughly where Barangaroo is now).

Companies like David Grant Special Events, Hancock Events and others, created their own party spaces that filled to overflowing with top-class caterers providing plenty of great food. Guests could travel from one space to the next over the course of the night.

The costs of creating what was pretty much three one night pop-up venues became too much and the format was changed to one big party.

Then, in 2005, along came RSVP, launched by Single Market Events. Speaking to micenet AUSTRALIA from his UK base, company MD Tim Etchells said RSVP was clearly competing with Sydney on Sale from the outset.

“RSVP was a unique event that served the corporate event and party market. It always had its challenges and whilst the exhibitor profile was always clear, venue caterers, production, etc, the visitor profile was always slightly more hazy.

“It of course was badly hit by the GFC. The cancellation of the London show was the direct result of the GFC [which saw] the collapse of the corporate entertaining market. I was surprised that the Australian shows survived as long as they did post the GFC and I think it is a credit it to the organisers who tried to reposition it and to keep it going.

“I think the event worked because it was the first time all the suppliers and the customers were able to network together and be identified as its own industry.”

Single Market Events sold RSVP to ETF for an undisclosed sum in 2008.

“I’m afraid it’s not possible to tell you how much it was sold for but I was very happy with the outcome, as they bought the London show, Manchester show, Sydney and Melbourne shows,” Etchells said.

“It is interesting to see that in the UK, new events that serve this market have been created in the last year. The Christmas Party Show and The Summer Party Show, which are even more niche than RSVP, have proven to be very successful. Maybe someone will follow that model in Australia but I don’t think it will be me!”

So what now?

Hopefully nothing. For many years the people who fund industry exhibitions like AIME and Inspire EX in Australia have been complaining that there are too many, and budgets – and time – are not what they used to be.

Event ConneQion in Brisbane folded a few years ago. There is now a smaller business events exhibition up there run by Promag out of New Zealand specifically for the Queensland market, and some business event operators have been exhibiting at Luxperience in Sydney.

With the rising costs of participating at AIME (which concluded on Wednesday), many will be happy that with the closure of Inspire EX it is one less marketing decision they have to make.

Others who may have built a new stand for AIME 2015 which they were then going to use at Inspire EX, and who found they got business from Inspire EX, may be understandably miffed.

But that’s business.

A full report on the AIME exhibition will feature in micenet AUSTRALIA’s April edition.