Last week, we made a big announcement that we are moving World Tea Expo and Healthy Beverage Expo to Long Beach and the buzz is building. I want to thank the scores of customers for their comments, overwhelmingly positive, about the move and I wanted to take the opportunity to talk a little more about the decision, opportunity, and expectations.
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” – Lao Tzu
First, I want to say this was not a decision made lightly given we had already had the venue and hotel booked for 2014 and it was no small undertaking to switch mid-cycle. We have successfully held the event in Las Vegas 10 of the last 11 years. The discussion on exploring moving the event to the West Coast sprung at the 2013 event with the launch of our newly co-located event, Healthy Beverage Expo. The question was posed whether Las Vegas embraced the same core values as the event. The same has been asked about tea and Las Vegas many times over the years.
It is extremely important to state that our launching Healthy Beverage Expo is to help fuel growth for our world tea community. If we always do what we always did, we will always get what we always got. We have been very successful in defining a highly vertical marketplace for tea. The high correlation of the buyers needs to the exhibitor’s products creates a high return and an efficient marketplace. The vertically focused education and networking are also highly effective. But for the tea industry to fundamentally grow, it is critical we reach a larger horizontal audience.
We kept the door open to the idea and began exploring our options. After reviewing the feedback from 2013, the three biggest complaints were; the hotel was terrible, the food at the convention center was equally awful, and it is oppressively hot in Las Vegas in June. While I was glad that none of the largest issues were directed to the great event, community, and education we provide, we still believe it is our responsibility to control and deliver on the entire experience for all the event delegates.
We reviewed a number of venues and options and determined that Long Beach was the most viable. I discussed at length with a former SCAA executive who ran their event there in 2007 who indicated it was their “smash hit”. We discussed with our advisory boards, industry leaders, select exhibitors and attendees and did a detailed venue analysis.
Long Beach made a lot of sense.
“Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” – Victor Hugo
Looking back at the beginnings of World Tea Expo, one of the key factors to our success was the excitement of the community to have an event of our own. We had the exhibit hall, conferences, and room block all in one hotel. It created intimacy and opportunity. The buzz emanated from the show floor to the restaurants, bars, and dance floors.
This cohesiveness created value and a return on experience. We see this as essential for the growth of our new event for the healthy beverage community and we see the need for us to return to these core values for our world tea community.
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” – Alan Watts
With the change in destination and venue, we see far greater opportunity for us to create community, networking, fun, and experience. We will be offering more micro-networking events in the evening, conversations during the day, and education throughout.
Overall, we will facilitate a tremendous increase in the return on experience for everyone involved. When I look at the RoE we created in Las Vegas, it was no longer a ‘tea experience”. Returning exhibitors and attendees were staying outside the block, and after the show closed, all of us were thrown into a sea of a few hundred thousand tourists, gambling, never-ending Cirque de Soleil shows, expensive dinners, and the other things sin-city has received its reputation for. In short, the RoE was not “the industry event for tea” but Las Vegas.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw
We are confident that Long beach will accelerate the growth of the event and market. There will undoubtedly be challenges for those who have accustomed or familiar with Las Vegas, but without change, there can be no progress.