As you may know, I often get the pleasure of speaking at some of the leading hospitality, marketing, and hotel events across the world. In a couple of weeks’ time, I will be heading out to Sydney to talk at NoVacancy with my wonderful co-host Holly Galbraith. We will be talking about all things social media and direct bookings – make sure you don’t miss it as it will help set you up for success in 2022 and 2023.
I often get asked about which events people should go to and what to expect. “Bart, which events should I go to?”
To answer the question, I couldn’t think of a better person to explain what to expect from NoVacancy, than the CEO himself, Brad Langton.
During this fun conversation, Brad and I discuss one of his favorite things – organizing hospitality events and expos, but more specifically the purpose behind No Vacancy and why it is so important to attend. We also discuss what to expect, how to make the most of the event, and why you should attend. Brad also shares the amazing lengths he and his team go through to ensure you get the best out of the industry-defining No vacancy exhibition.
Brad is Chief Executive Officer of National Media, one of Australia’s leading independent exhibition organisers, listing among its events portfolio NoVacancy – the largest annual exhibition for the hotel and accommodation industry.
NoVacancy, is Australia’s largest and most important conference & exhibition for those who own, manage and operate hotels, motels, resorts, serviced apartments, and other accommodation properties. Covering the whole supply chain and delivering the latest trends and ideas, NoVacancy brings together more than 5,000 decision-makers annually with a unified focus on modernizing their properties, enhancing the guest experience, and maximizing profits through free education, networking, and innovative product and service solutions. With 300+ quality suppliers, non-stop business education, and the hottest networking – NoVacancy is the industry’s most important event of the year!
This year’s NoVacancy Expo & Conference will be held at the world-class ICC Sydney on 7-8 September 2022. Two value-packed days | The hottest networking | Thousands of solutions | All for FREE!
This episode is full of intention and thinking through how to make the most of the events you choose to attend and setting goals that help your events be successful. Go ahead and mark your calendar and carve out some time to see what’s new out there. Thanks for listening!
Topics we cover in this episode:
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Hello and welcome back to The Accommodation Show, we help accommodation owners like you get the knowledge and skills to grow your business, improve your guest experience and increase your profitability.
Bart: Okay, everybody, welcome back to The Accommodation Show. This week, I’m really pumped to welcome Brad Langton from No Vacancy to the show. Welcome to the show, Brad.
Brad: Thank you for having me.
Bart: I’m excited because we’re gonna be talking about all things No Vacancy and why it is an event that people should not miss. So Brad is the CEO of National Media. They run a range of different events, but one of the ones that he’s very passionate about is No Vacancy, and No Vacancy appeals to people within the hospitality space, particularly hotels, it’s also relevant to all people that are in accommodation. So even if you’re a small short-term rental operator, a service apartment operator, a motel, or if you’ve got a campsite, it’s going to be an event where you’re going to get incredible value. So today, we’re going to get incredible value because Brad’s going to tell us all about the event, why you should come and some of the things that you should expect So Brad, first of all, we’d love to know a little bit more about your story and how you got to running vacancy, which is one of the world’s one of the country’s biggest hotel exhibitions.
Brad: Thank you for that very detailed intro. Look, my personal background is in leadership, and marketing roles across software, and retail telecommunications, working across Australia, then Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and then back to Australia. I tripped into the industry of, of exhibitions and building large events for industries. So No Vacancy you mentioned and the work we do in the accommodation sector. And we head up events for the fitness and gym industry, architecture and interior design, marketing technology, and a heap of others as well. So I tripped into it. It’s a very long story, but I love bringing communities and industries together. And seeing their knowledge grow, share their knowledge, and discovering things they would never have known can help them in their businesses.
Bart: Yeah, and that’s one of the biggest pieces of feedback that I’ve actually had Since announcing that I’m speaking at No Vacancy is people going, oh my god, it’s so much value. You must go there’s so much to be gained from it and sometimes I find that when you’re not from a particular industry, people go well, what do you know about hotels? So why should you be playing in this space, what you’re actually doing is you’re bringing your skill set and saying hey, I can add incredible value to the community and to building something that a hotel you wouldn’t know how to build in general. So what’s the thinking behind putting together at No Vacancy?
Brad: Look, I think where we started with this was we picked up the phone as a team and we spoke to hundreds of accommodation property owners and managers, to understand what they were doing in the market. What was missing? You know how they buy when they buy the biggest pain points. And hundreds of things come of that. Basically, you know you have if I talk about hotel general managers who are hot property for suppliers, but as a supplier, they want to knock on their door every day and you’re dealing with guests complaints, shortage of staff, and f&b disaster, whatever it may be on that particular day. And meeting a supplier is pretty far down the list.
So we provide that platform where you know for two days under one roof you can see hundreds of suppliers with all the products you currently have or the services or solutions that you need but then also things you didn’t even know existed and that could be around sustainability or you think about COVID and contactless check-in and mobile key and those kinds of things. We also spend a lot of time speaking to small operators too. So that was equally important for us. It wasn’t just about hotel chains so we talked to holiday parks, people who own and operate service departments student accommodation, and through that mix as well. And by doing that, we’ve brought together education for each of those verticals, but also products and solutions. So not everything’s for everyone, but there’s definitely plenty for everyone if that makes sense.
Bart: Yeah, absolutely. It absolutely does. I like that story and that journey of really understanding some of those pain points that people have and how we can solve them. And that’s the thing is that in one day, you can go to this event and get the value out of something that might take you a whole year to speak toward different suppliers and you can do it in one or two days at one event, which is amazing. So what should people expect actually so we go there and you’re saying well, all the suppliers can be there now how big is this event and when we walk in what people should what should they expect?
Brad: Numbers are one thing but by scale, it’s around 14,000 square meters if that translate for some but two and a half to three football fields of suppliers and booths and technology vendors and robots and amenities and everything in between. It’s as large as I describe it, and I think we’ve talked about this before, but it’s kind of a Westfield for an accommodation provider. Imagine walking into an entire Westfield Shopping Centre. And there’s a section here you go through currently at Westfield and there’s a high-end luxury section and then there’s sports and apparel and so coming through No Vacancy. You’ve got all those things I mentioned before. It’s everything that’s relevant to an accommodation provider. From the back of the house to the front of the house to the guest experience to sustainability technology, all those areas.
So, there’s that part of it, which is you know, people tick off hundreds of hours of meetings in a day, as you mentioned, but also the education is really important. And with that comes networking too. So we have seven different summits that run across the two days and each of those summits provides a different angle of content. So we talked about sustainability. Well, there’s an entire track with six sessions, panels, and solar presentations that is dedicated to running a more sustainable accommodation property. And then we’ve got things to delve deep down into revenue management, an entire day for marketing, an entire day on hotel technology, and then a special one for small operators as well, where they might not have revenue teams and a head of engineering. It’s just you doing it all. And so we have a track where we’ve got specialists speaking to people about what you can do around revenue or marketing and I think you’re involved in one of those sessions which is really cool.
Bart: Beautiful. And so that’s why I wanted to do this episode Brad was not to sell the event. I mean, you know, of course, we want more people to come to attend. But when we’re, I really feel there’s a huge amount of value for everybody to actually come in and get something out of it. And I also find that sometimes we go to these events we haven’t kind of prepared and that’s where I think we can actually prepare people to say this is what to expect. And this is what’s actually happening rather than turning up on the day and just kind of going for you. Oh, actually, these are people I might want to see. These are speaker sessions that I might be interested in all I had no idea that you’re doing six different streams. So I think that preparation gives a huge amount of value to people. And I think the other thing that you were saying the other day was if we’ve got people coming from all over the world to this event.
Brad: Look, it’s predominantly an Australian-based event of course, but we see attendance from Fiji and Vanuatu to Bali, plenty from New Zealand as well. So it’s kind of as the event has grown and evolved, I think the word has spread and we have suppliers that come from all around the world of course, but attendees as well, that don’t have anything in their regions, they come out here and find value. So So that’s been really interesting to see.
Bart: And just going back to the education part. So we’ve got this opportunity to go and talk to all the different suppliers and would probably also have the opportunity to talk to other people that are in the same space or the same industry, industry as us and particularly in that education space. I can imagine that if you’re sitting down and you’d find like-minded individuals that are sitting next to you, tell me about sort of that how the education part has grown and how important it is and what people can get out of it.
Brad: So I think you’re right. Interestingly, not just by job title, so if you were to see in the revenue and distribution Summit, it’s not just revenue and distribution teams sitting in you’ve got maybe a hotel manager of a smaller property that really picks up that weight in that business. So you find them sitting in that channel and you’ve got a heap of a variety of people sitting in sessions that are relevant some in a track for the whole day. Some for the one session that piques their interest, and I mean that we haven’t touched on it, I’m sure we will. But the benefit of this event is it’s free to attend and so there is no tie to needing to be sitting in one room all day. Indeed we run a session for 20 or 30 minutes, and there’s nothing in there for half an hour so that people can get out can network, and connect can explore products without having to think they’re going to miss out on content. So that works really well.
The other thing that we do provide is we’ve invested in some AI and matchmaking technology. So if you’re attending and you’re looking for new screens for your rooms potentially or you’re looking at sustainable solutions, you can tick that box when you’re registering your free ticket. And a couple of weeks out from the show a week or so I think it sends you an email saying, Hey, look at all the people who’ve got services that you’re looking to provide or you’re looking for sorry. And once they do that, you can then choose to meet so you can say look I’m going to these three sessions, but at 11 am Let’s do it. Let’s catch up on my stand and I want to see so there’s a serendipity of walking the tradeshow to find suppliers you might not know but if you’re going with purpose, you can plan your sessions. You can plan some meetings, and it works really well so you can see what you need to see and make the most out of a day as you said, or a few hours or two days as many do.
Bart: Yeah. And so that kind of leads me into another one. You kind of hinted there the cost of it. Now it’s free and one of the philosophies in my head, is usually that if it’s free, it’s kind of worth nothing, but that’s not the reason why this is actually free. So I really like you to address that because I think for some people they might go oh, well if it’s free, what’s the catch? I’ll surely it’s not this or that and they’ll put your event into a particular box. How about you tell people why you’ve gone in this direction?
Brad: Good question. Look, we run the largest events for the industries that we serve. And to do that you need to remove barriers. So for us, when we talk to those hundreds of conversations at the start of this journey, we’re trying to understand what are the big barriers, some of them were the smaller operators felt ostracised if they went to a bigger end-of-town event potentially where everyone’s in suits with lapel pins and they wear a polo and shorts because they’re dealing with you know, all hands on parts of their operation. The other thing was costs you know, if I’ve got to travel somewhere, then I get hit up for $800 $1,000, $2,000 For my conference ticket. And the third part of that was that when that was sitting there in those conferences that exist in the market, and they all have their place and are important. Not every session was relevant. So if you take those three things and look at what we’ve done, we’ve taken the cost away. How’s it free? Will the suppliers benefit from meeting people? And so they pay and that’s how it works. And there’s no pressure you’re not forced to visit anyone you don’t. You can walk straight past or you can stop and engage and so that’s how we’ve achieved scale by removing those barriers and cost was one of those barriers.
Bart: And look, I’ve been on the other end of a lot of these events actually being a supplier and having my stand and that sort of thing. And it’s an enormous amount of work and energy and effort that goes into actually preparing to be a supplier of one of these events. So they’re going to come on in the best form in the best shape trying to demonstrate what it is that they do and it’s not just a website, it’s not just a sales call. It’s actually people at their best trying to be of service to you, obviously to try to win your business. But the relationship is a lot different. One is face-to-face. So there’s a huge amount of value in actually speaking to that person at the event as opposed to maybe even going picking up the phone and that sort of thing.
Bart: Well, the power of face-to-face is interesting because if you’ve got to think about if someone comes knocking on your door with a product and you’re running a property you’re being sold to, but this is the opposite you choose to walk up to a supplier if you so choose, and you get to ask the hard questions. You know, Can You Supply my business? What’s your turnaround time? What’s the cost structure? What are your KPIs and SLRs and all those things that you want to know you can put the hard question on and you can walk away and that’s kind of the benefit? You don’t have to walk into every store in Westfield. You choose the ones you want to walk into because you’re interested. You don’t have to buy you walk out if you don’t want to. And so I use that analogy again because as the visitor you’re in the power, power seat of what you attend, what you visit who you visit and how you visit but you know I always encourage people to come with a plan but come with hard questions. You’re gonna do that when you’re negotiating a deal or a contract anyway. So why not do that in person face to face as you know one of the most valuable ways on both sides of a buyer and seller relationship to get ahead.
Bart: I just want to go back to that previous question that you answered about the education part because I guess, even if you weren’t seeing suppliers just going for that alone is incredibly valuable because I know a lot of the speakers that are on there. Some of them have been on this show. Some of them I know in passing and it’s a really great bunch of people. One of the things that you had mentioned in the past when we had a conversation was the fact that you’ve got different, I guess staff members from different divisions actually coming and sitting down and they’re finding their most relevant stream or that most relevant topic which is going to come to them and one of the things you said that as a business owner, sometimes, like the hotel or hotel manager might say, Well, you can’t go to that event. You’re not going to get enough value out of it, drive it back into the business, oh, the businesses are going to spend 1000, 2000, $5,000 On this particular event. And that’s another one of those barriers that you’re trying to cut out, as you say, as an owner, you can send all of your staff and all of your people and it’s not going to be prohibitively expensive for that value-derived.
Brad: The only cost is time. And sometimes we don’t have time but a lot of people plan in advance and make sure that this time of year I mean you need to weigh up when you’re going to get access to Seven Summits of free content and maybe catch up with a few suppliers that have been hounding you all in one bit of efficient time, that time alone is you know, in most cases worth it and I think that’s probably reflected in the scale of attendance every year but yeah, absolutely. The only cost is time. So it’s another one of those barriers. And we see that, I think you mentioned before you ask the question about cost. If we had a ticket price on this, then maybe the GM would come down and bring someone in procurement possibly, but this way, you know ahead of f&b, the head of revenue and distribution, someone from marketing, they can choose when they come down when they see something of relevance. But the wider team, the decision-making team the key people in any organization can come down to the show, again, that cost barriers removed so you know, it’s a model that seems to work.
Bart: Now, a quickfire question that you aren’t expecting, so throw a little bit or maybe not top three sessions that you think people should attend, or I’ll give you an out in the out is top three streams that you think people should attend.
Brad: I’m not allowed to have favorites. Honestly, my answer would be I think it depends on your objectives. You know, if you’re a small operator, there’s a bit around marketing a bit around revenue. So that’s really important. The marketing track, a hotel marketing Summit. We don’t just have hotel marketers sitting on panels, answering questions. We’ve got agency side specialists who might do a small bit of work with this industry but are working with global clients across different sectors coming in and talking about email marketing, and I think we all know and hopefully, everyone listening to this knows the power of sending an email and seeing direct bookings, right. But hearing from a specialist that works with all kinds of retail, commercial, b2b, b2c companies, globally, is really cool. So we spend a lot of time finding specialists on the content, not necessarily industry, and making sure that the presentation is tailored to that. So that’d be my second. My third would have to be the sustainability track. It’s been talked about for a long time. It’s really important. We’ve got some hoteliers sharing their experience, the likes of Domo group and what they’re doing, and Katherine there who’s leading that charge around sustainability. So hoteliers sharing their experience and their programs and their plans, as well as people from neighbors and talk about how to achieve a rating and what it can mean for your business. It’s not just about having a green tick on your website. There are real commercial benefits and gains to being a sustainably operating property so I could give you something about each of the tracks if I’m being honest, but there are three for you.
Bart: Thank you. Yeah, look, and I’m really excited to come down and I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of people and going to different events. Of course last year I wasn’t able to attend due to COVID, which I don’t want to talk about at all anymore. It’s gonna be a fantastic event. Remind us of the dates.
Brad: Seventh and eighth of September, which is a Wednesday and Thursday at the ICC Sydney Exhibition Centre.
Bart: Fantastic and you can grab yourself some tickets, there’ll be links in the show notes below. For No Vacancy, you can use my code if you so choose which I think is BS 22. Thank you very much for that. And eventually, you do register you get those tickets beforehand, just in case or I think there might be a cost on the door or not, but just you don’t have to pay anything. Look, Brian, is there anything else that you want to finish on? Or are we good?
Brad: I think looking forward to welcoming everybody that would be the summary.
Bart: Super excited. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. I’m really looking forward to meeting you in a few weeks’ time.
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