6-Oct-2015 Source: HeliHub.com
Helitech International, the world’s third largest dedicated helicopter trade show (after Heli-Expo and Heli-Russia) opens today with just three manufacturers booking space on the show floor. AgustaWestland, Airbus Helicopters and Bell are the only manufacturers with floor space, with Sikorsky conspicuous by its absence despite being one of the four manufacturers who reportedly insisted on Helitech moving location from the much-loved Duxford Airfield to the central London location of a convention centre. No doubt its current state of flux over its future ownership plays a part, as well as its over-reliance on the offshore oil-support operators.
In 2013, the last time Helitech was in London, Guimbal, MD, Robinson and Sikorsky all had space in their name or that of their UK/Eire distributors. The exhibition has changed its face entirely, and is no longer aimed at the private/corporate helicopter owner or small commercial operator. Helitech is now geared towards the large operators and leasing companies. Five leasing companies have taken a combined 437 sq. metres of space, including the next three largest stands after the manufacturers. What does this say about the industry and the exhibition? The leasing companies are in difficult times with a number of their aircraft flying less or no hours as a result of the oil price dropping so markedly, but still need to be visible as their absence would raise even more questions. Up to August 2014, oil was steadily in the range $105-115 a barrel, and after a dramatic crash in the fourth quarter of that year, it has barely ventured above $50 in the last six weeks according to charts on the MoneyWeek website.
HeliHub.com approached a number of past and present exhibitors, and it was clear that they all regarded the central London location as a step backwards in gaining new customers, and a sigificant increase in cost – for both exhibition space, access for setup and housing for staff during the event. One notable example we spoke with was David George of Sloane Helicopters, who told us that the show in 2013 cost his company over £75,000 (US $113,500), and in their post-event review could find no benefit from having been present. Unsurprisingly, they will not exhibit at Helitech again. George cited the lack of ability to fly in, the massive restrictions on demo flights and the location as factors killing off the event. While Helitech organisers will no doubt respond with the offer of private pilots landing at Damyns Hall airfield and a free courtesy car, the 15 mile journey takes 25 minutes at times when there is no traffic, and up to an hour at other times. Double that for a return journey and it’s understandable that there are unlikely to be many takers when these helicopter owners are used to landing exactly where they need to be.
Exhibition space has increased anything from 7 to 50% depending on which prices you compare between the 2013 and 2015 sales brochures. The UK Retail Price Index has risen 3.5% over the same period
HeliHub.com also spoke with a large marine chandlery business which exhibits at key boat shows, including the Southampton Boat Show in September and the London Boat Show, which is held at the ExCeL conference centre in January. While admitting that the bulk of the British marine business is geared to the south coast, they too were heavily critical of the location
In summary, Helitech has morphed into a trade show that no longer appeals to many people in the UK industry. It only survives in the UK by virtue of London’s wide range of air links and many historic buildings to lure overseas visitors for a few extra days before and/or after the event. The majority of the UK helicopter industry sees more benefit from events such as Heli UK Expo, held at Sywell Aerodrome, where visitors can fly in and demo flights are frequent. The future of Helitech remains in the balance. But then Heli-Expo will be at a US city with no international air links. Perhaps all our trade shows are determined to alienate the people they were set up for?
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com