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BTN Exclusive: The Tom Nutley Interview

Tom Nutley, founder of Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE), and travel personality of the year at World Travel Awards 2003, recently became the first ever Chairman for RTE. Tom took some time out at Arabian Travel Market to speak to BTN about his successes.

Under Nutley’s leadership and through his vision, RTE has experienced phenomenal success and growth since its launch in 1992 and is the world’s leading business-to-business organiser of major international, regional and sector exhibitions and events for the travel and tourism industry worldwide. RTE is currently responsible for 13 exhibitions, including its flagship - World Travel Market. BTN: Can you give tell BTN about your experience with Reed Travel Exhibitions?

TN: I joined Reed Travel Exhibitions 21 years ago as an exhibition manager.
I took over WTM in 1984 when the show was four years old.
I launched ATM 11 years ago. Since it was launched I have acquired and expanded the group to 13 shows.

BTN: What inspired you to start expanding Reed Travel Exhibitions to such a large portfolio?

TN: I like doing new things. I have always kept my enthusiasm through launching and acquiring. When I see opportunities to expand because of a gap in the market.

BTN: Why do you think that conferences are important for the travel industry in particular?

TN: Instant communication does not satisfy the need for people to meet. Industry gatherings are more than just an exhibition business. They are also educational and social.

BTN: Did you ever imagine that they would be so successful?
TN: The shows have been progressive. I had a vision when I took over World Travel Market (WTM) to make it the best show in the world. I wanted to create the most professional portfolio of events for the industry - to create shows to serve different markets. WTM has grown from 4000 - 40, 000.


BTN: How are you finding your new position as Chairman?

TN: It’s not much different. Mike Allsopp, the former UK Divisional Director of Reed Exhibitions has taken over as Managing Director. I needed someone to help manage the business. This has taken the pressure off but I am still as busy.

BTN: Do you prefer partnerships or franchise agreements?

TN: I prefer it when we wholly the event. That way we are the sole decision-makers. With management contracts, you must always take your partners view into consideration.

BTN: Is there a market for RTE in Africa?

TN: I don’t see any opportunity in Africa at present as there are already a number of events over there.  I don’t launch in competition with established events. I look for gaps or acquire exhibitions.

BTN: Would you launch in China following your experience with PATA?

I am always looking for gaps in the market and carrying out research.
We are researching China. Everyone knows China will grow.

BTN: Which other niche areas might you go into? Would you consider the spa market?

TN: We are announcing another event soon. Watch this space.

BTN: Airline participation at exhibitions has been dwindling over the last few years. Does that on the business? Have you had to go elsewhere for new revenue streams?

TN: All our shows have grown despite the lack of airline participation. We have seen a change in the airline industry - internet- go for the direct sale.

BTN: In what ways is technology affecting the shows?

Despite improvement people still want to meet with fellow profesionals.
Technology is a major benefit in terms of our worldwide operation. We can now communicate on a real-time level. Thanks to instant communication, deadlines are now closer to events and more accurate information can be produced. The internet and emailing has also meant that we benefit from cost savings.

BTN: Have you been pleased with the success of this year’s ATM?

We are 30% bigger in terms of exhibition space and that is a phenomenal growth rate. This year we have 55 countries exhibiting. Last year we had 43. The attendance figures are 38% compared to last year.

We are very pleased with the growth. We think we had this growth because there was no growth last year. Therefore we are seeing two years worth of growth. We are anticipating another 10 - 15% next year.