A new luxury travel tradeshow, Further East, to be held in Bali in November, asks buyers and sellers to “shake off your shoes and your tradeshow perceptions”.
If it wasn’t for Serge Dive who is launching it, that notion of a ‘barefoot’ show might be dismissed as just a gimmick. Dive created ILTM Cannes, sold it to Reed Exhibitions, and later went on to launch his own shows Pure Life Experiences, LE Miami, We Are Africa, and now, Further East.
Buyers interviewed show he seems to have built a cult following for being ‘un’ everything a traditional tradeshow is.
“We participated in the first Pure Life Experiences in Marrakech in 2009 and have attended every one since,” said Hamish Keith, group managing director of Bangkok-based Exo Travel. “Serge’s vision of a ‘un-conference’ and a different kind of tradeshow focused on experiential travel coincides with Exo’s vision of fusing active and experiential travel in exotic and emerging Asian destinations. I really like and respect that Pure remains focused on its principles and has not grown into a big mainstream tradeshow, and I trust Serge and his team to deliver another great event with Further East.”
The new event will be held from November 12 to 15 in Seminyak, Bali’s hip and happening upscale resort destination, at Alila Seminyak, Potato Head Beach Club, Katamama Hotel and W Bali-Seminyak next door.
So will the tradeshow be held on sand with barefoot buyers in bohemian wear strolling to their next appointment?
Dive, CEO of London-based Beyond Luxury Media, in a phone interview, said it won’t be on sand on the beach, but it would be the closest buyers and sellers could get to a barefoot luxury show. Appointments would be held in an indoor space at Alila, but bin the picture of a traditional mart in a convention hall, he said.
“I can’t tell you how the space would be dressed up, but everything we do is custom-made, and people will get a sense of the sea. When they go out to the networking area on the lawn facing the beach, we would encourage them to go barefoot,” said Dive.
The conference component, Awaken, will be held outdoors at Potato Head Beach Club. “Forget awful coffee, cold air-conditioned room, boring speakers, death by Powerpoint. It’ll be a mix of keynote, fast presentations, workshops, discussions. We want to create more conversations with the audience,” he said.
Dive has a mission for every show he creates. We Are Africa, for instance, aims to rebrand Africa travel as modern, positive and contemporary. Further East aspires to be the guardian of Asian values, he said.
“We realise that Asia is becoming the place more people want to go, because Asia has everything that the Western world has lost – spirituality, not necessarily in the religious sense, balance, social responsibility, self-respect and respect for others, great respect for heritage while putting itself into the future.
“At the same time, Asian brands and products are at an interesting crossroads where they could be tempted to embrace much of values of the Western world,” said Dive.
Further East can be the guardian by bringing forth the uniqueness of Asia through having the right cast of sellers – high-end, boutique, iconic, above all, uniquely Asian, he said. Once the casting is right, the discerning buyers would follow, he added.
“The problem with tradeshows is they mix Asian brands with European, African, etc, that there is no sense of context. Look at the story of trade fairs – they used to have everything. I was one of the first to separate luxury travel from normal travel (ILTM). Then we realised that within luxury travel, there’s an experiential market so we created PURE, and we realised that Africa needed to be treated differently from Asia so we created We Are Africa. Further East is the same. The values of Asia, its DNA, need to be displayed and elevated, not diluted,” Dive said.
That’s also the reason why he picked Bali. “Obviously we could go to one of the amazing, efficient destinations of Asia but we’ve been obsessed from the start by the idea of a barefoot travel tradeshow and want to make sure this will be on the beach. Bali has a great sense of character and look how zen and peaceful Alila is while Potato Head Beach Club shows the millennial, hipster feel of Asia yet is so anchored on traditional Asia. (Ronald) Akili (founder of Potato Head Beach Club) is totally obsessed with protecting the environment, culture and Asian values,” said Dive.
Some 145 exhibitors of a targeted 200 have signed up. They would be matched with 210 buyers in 42 pre-scheduled appointments. The show targets 35 per cent of buyers to be from Asia, 27 per cent Europe, 18 per cent North America, 10 per cent Oceania, seven per cent Latin America and three per cent Africa/Middle East. It is predominantly a leisure show (93 per cent) with the rest comprising corporate and MICE business.
It remains to be seen whether Further East isn’t built on sand. Dive’s followers like David Song, founder & managing director of Beyond X Boundaries Singapore who attends Pure and We Are Africa, thinks it’s going to be solid, saying Dive and team have “raised the bar in events management”.
“They do it with style and flair, with a very relaxed atmosphere and a bohemian attitude to dress code,” said Song, adding there were “meaningful engagements, new business developments” as exhibitors and buyers were carefully selected and screened to ensure quality.
Dive said he’s able to create meaningful engagements because “the other tradeshows are in a dating business; we are in the falling-in-love business”.
“We create a community people want to live in. When they come to our shows, they say, I realise I love what I’m doing. They may return with 80 business cards, but 40 will be friends forever, people they will do business with and whom they will protect.
“The Internet revolution is returning business to what it used to be: business based on trust, liking and knowing people well.”