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Q&A: Hannah Tovey, head of the London Wine Fair

Published:  07 September, 2017

Lisa Riley caught up with the new head of the annual must-attend event about the changes she’s been implementing in her first few months 

How have you found your first two months as LWF event director?

It has been great to fully immerse myself in a show which has been on my radar for some 20 years – both as a visitor and as an exhibitor. I was fortunate to have a period of overlap with Ross Carter straight after the 2017 event, and since then have had time to assess and evaluate plans for 2018. Mission one was to recruit a new team. I was looking for a combination of high energy and a passionate belief in the importance and relevance of the London Wine Fair – along with smarts and relevant experience, of course. The future success and growth of the LWF depends on the buy-in of the entire wine trade, so we’ve started with us. Our five chairs are now filled and we are getting stuck in.

What are your key plans for the fair going forward?

It is a massive cliché, but the world moves so quickly now and despite the event having had a huge injection of focus and change of venue only four years ago, the climate and context for the LWF is already very different and so we must continue to adapt with the times. The beauty of having a new team is that everything is up for debate. It’s been a process of looking at every element of the Fair and working out what could benefit from an overhaul.

How do you aim to evolve the event and put your stamp on it?

“Brand London Wine Fair” is being given a new face, to reflect the fresh start. Bold, colourful, current and high energy. The relaunch is imminent. The design and logo will reflect my firm belief that the British trade is stronger if we pull together.

We all know how people-centric our industry is and if we don’t all come together, under one roof, annually we miss out on opportunities to trade, share and grow – and to project our ideas, strength and ambition onward to consumers and also on a global scale. I think the future success of the London Wine Fair is as much about a psychological shift in how we perceive and use it, as it is about all the other variables.

Will you be introducing any new elements/areas to LWF 2018?

For sure. We will be launching two major new zones for 2018 in the next few weeks, both of which will focus on sectors as yet fully untapped in terms of exhibitor opportunities, and which will create a significant draw for both domestic and international visitors.

What do you predict for the future of exhibitions in general? How will they evolve in the next few years?

I hope we’ll see trade events being more outward-looking and open to learn from other industries – especially as consumer expectations are driven ever higher in terms of their service and innovation expectations. Due to the climate, I think the next few years will involve exhibition providers having to work even harder to join up the dots and deliver ever more commercial opportunities for exhibitors. Sometimes I think those opportunities are already under the roof but aren’t always being optimised.

There has been much talk about changing venue – is this in the pipeline and if so, when are you hoping to do this?

Olympia is a fantastic venue, but it’s no secret that it is expensive and that the costs are going up each year. We are definitely at Olympia for 2018, that’s confirmed and we are delighted by the number of return exhibitors already signed up for the 2018 event.

That said, one of the challenges is keeping the cost of participation within the means of our exhibitors so that they can enjoy the best ROI possible and then come back. It’s only realistic and sensible to explore any alternatives that exist.

There aren’t many venues of sufficient scale in central London but I do have to keep an open mind.