SALTEX and Events Director, Luke Perry, believes that SALTEX 2021 will provide a huge opportunity for the grounds management industry to regroup, reunite and celebrate.
Luke Perry was appointed by the Grounds Management Association as SALTEX and Events Director just six weeks before the 2019 event.
“I was blown away by the exhibition,” he says of the last event. “I’ve been involved with so many trade events and I have never seen such an opening to a show. Before the doors had opened the queue was stretching down to the NEC atrium and it really hit home just how passionate people are about SALTEX. It was inspiring.”
Luke’s words are high praise indeed from someone who has worked on some of the UK’s most prestigious exhibitions. He has been immersed in the events industry for over 20 years and has worked across a diverse portfolio of shows which include the likes of BBC Countryfile Live, The British International Motor Show, Autosport International and several specialist events in the hospitality industry.
Enthused by his first taste of SALTEX, Luke was straight to work on preparations for the show’s 75th anniversary, spearheading the team of organisers in co-ordinating the strategy and making sure the event delivers on all fronts. “Putting on a two-day show is an enormous amount of work – it really is a 365-day project, but I wouldn’t have been in the events industry for so long if I didn’t love what I do,” he says.
Luke is looking forward to making his mark on SALTEX’s 75th anniversary but will have to wait a little longer than originally planned, following the announcement that the show has been postponed from November 2020 to Spring 2021.
“It was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but absolutely the correct one,” he says. “I think the feedback and support from the industry certainly is testament to this.
“We’ve had a fantastic response from exhibitors with many claiming that it will provide them with enough time to recover and plan effectively. In fact, many have suggested that Spring is actually a better time of year and that echoes the same feedback we have had from visitors. With such an unprecedented year ahead, we’re planning more than ever behind the scenes to make sure it hits the right mark.”
Luke candidly admits that show preparations are somewhat different to the usual event planning he is accustomed to. Naturally, there is still uncertainty and questions arising as to how large gatherings and exhibitions will be delivered.
“The honest answer is that we do not have all the answers yet, but we do have time on our side,” he explains. “Our main priority is to put the safety of everyone connected with SALTEX above all else – and this is one of the reasons why the show was postponed.
“Nonetheless, we are working around the clock and planning for every eventuality. Part of this planning involves ensuring that we can deliver a show in which people can assemble and interact with a real awareness of the need to maintain safe practices. Should guidelines or restrictions still be necessary in March, we are working hard to ensure the show remains a brilliant and valuable experience for exhibitors and visitors. All we can do is take it step-by-step and ensure that we are prepared for each part of the journey.”
“After an extended period of isolation, there will be a real appetite for SALTEX. All signs are pointing towards an incredibly busy and vibrant show and we’re planning to deliver exactly that.”
SALTEX 2019 saw a record-breaking attendance of 9,104. The show also received a huge number of first-time attendees, an increase in younger visitors and the international audience grew significantly. Once again, SALTEX proved to be the industry’s showcase event in the UK, but Luke has his sights set even higher.
“I think we’ve got a great standing; a great pedigree and a history of success. Britain is a global leader in grounds management – SALTEX reflects that and has the opportunity to be the biggest and best in the world.
“As the GMA is a member organisation, it’s extremely close to the ground (excuse the pun) to the issues that matter most across the sector, at all levels. We’ve spent a lot of time listening to the industry and, in response, have quickly developed and issued essential Covid-19 resources. After this difficult period, I believe that SALTEX will play an integral role to helping the industry network, collaborate and continue to support one another more than ever before.”
SALTEX will take place on 3 and 4 March 2021 at the NEC, Birmingham. For more information visit www.gmasaltex.co.uk