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It’s Orlando, here we come, for AIME show

By Liz Hochstedler

October 2013 launch will be the first of three years in Fla.

Orlando, Fla., is the place that conjures up thoughts of Disney World, Epcot Center, Sea World, Universal Studios and many other attractions, but for five days in October 2013, Larry Little wants people in Orlando to be thinking about motorcycles.

The American International Motorcycle Expo (AIME) has signed a three-year contract to host its show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Marketplace Events announced in early May. The trade show will be held Wednesday, Oct. 16, and Thursday, Oct. 17, with the consumer event starting Friday, Oct. 18, running through Sunday. The AIME show was unveiled in January, but the dates and location weren’t narrowed until recently.

“Orlando is the best pick right now to launch this show, to really launch the engagement and the excitement that the show is going to create,” said Little, vice president and general manager of Marketplace Events’ Motorcycle Group.

Being an EICMA-like show, with both trade and consumer days, AIME sought a location that would keep exhibitors’ expenses reasonable, while providing a key travel destination for dealers and consumers.

“I’ve talked to a lot of clients about what are the more important facts in the show city for them, and at the end of the day, climate was an issue; timing was an issue,” Little explained.

Orlando was chosen from an initial list of more than 10 cities. What was critical, Little said, was working with both the convention center and the local convention and visitors bureau in each city. In Orlando, that meant working with the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) and Visit Orlando, “which were very, very helpful,” Little said.

One key to the exhibitor cost puzzle is that Florida is a right-to-work state, meaning labor unions cannot require employees’ membership. This will drive down the costs of labor for freight and booth setup when compared to most states without the policy. AIME also assured that hotel prices were in line with what exhibitors have come to expect at other trade shows.

“That was really a hardcore focus of ours, that we could develop good or better costs on all of those expenses for our exhibitors,” Little explained.

The availability of space and the ease of use were also important to AIME. Little noted that the OCCC, which offers more than 2 million square feet of space, has enough room for AIME to expand if needed. It also provides exceptional logistics and moving equipment, easy dock access and a 2,600-seat theater for OEMs to use to unveil new bikes. Also, an outdoor space is available for demo rides, stunt shows or anything else that needs to be outside.

Several hotels in the area are also within walking distance of the OCCC, and several attractions are available for interested exhibitors.

“Entertainment options are just all over the board down there, which is key for OEM clients and large aftermarket clients who like to do entertaining,” Little said.

Generating a consumer audience is also important, and though AIME could have chosen a more densely populated host city, Little believes Orlando will lend itself to a large audience from Florida and beyond.

“Florida, for many of the OEMs, is actually their top sales state,” he said. “Within four hours you’ve got Miami, Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Tampa, St. Pete, plus the Orlando area.”

The consumer show dates also coincide with Daytona Beach’s Biketoberfest, “so you have that little consumer aspect down there that may not be down there normally,” Little explained.

AIME also hopes consumers and dealers consider turning the event into a family vacation, leaving time to stay and enjoy the area’s attractions the days before or after the event.

“They’ll come to it more as a destination, instead of just coming to the show,” Little said.

AIME hoped to reveal the event’s location in late March or early April, but Little said the announcement was held off while AIME continued to negotiate fair prices for its exhibitors and attendees.

“I know everyone wants to know ‘What’s the day? Where’s it going to be? We have to plan our 2013.’ It was worth the wait to get the hotel rates and the on-site building costs in-line, where they need to be,” Little explained.

The excitement of the show has already been building, after Marketplace Events first announced the show, and AIME subsequently hosted a launch party at Dealer Expo in February. So many vendors have already expressed interested in exhibiting that AIME had to expand its exhibit space since it first began negotiations with the OCCC. A few OEMs have even expressed interest, though none have entered contracts yet.

“The whole concept of everyone being in one place at one time has been very, very, very well received, and that’s why I say we’ve upped our amount of space since we started this project, just because of that fact,” Little said. “I’m just glad because we’re bringing a product to market at the right time.”

Now that AIME has revealed the event’s dates and locations, it expects to hear from even more interested exhibitors. The AIME group is currently looking to sign a lease on an office in Orange County, Calif., so it can hire more sales and marketing staff and begin to sell booths. Prospective exhibitors will be contacted soon, and booths will cost less than they do at some other trade shows, Little reported. Marketing to consumers will begin in early 2013.

From Marketplace Events’ annual company meeting in Nashville, Little said vibe around the event was positive.

“There is so much excitement from inside the company about the idea because they’re show people, and they see what a unique selling proposition we have in terms of trade and consumer at one time,” Little said.

AIME believes Orlando is the right location for its inaugural event, and Little anticipates that the first show will be a hit.

“When the show is over, there should be a lightning bolt of energy that will run through the industry because of the excitement that we’ve created down in Orlando,” he said.

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