Sea Otter Europe: how one trade show is continuing to break records year on year

After announcing its 3rd edition for June 2019, Sea Otter Europe already looks set to blow last year’s visitor records out of the water. Sea Otter’s Albert Balcells shares the Expo’s secret to success in a time where Interbike has gone under, and trade shows are struggling to stay afloat.

How did Sea Otter Europe evolve to become its own show?

Sea Otter Classic is a great festival from the United States based in California. Well established, huge and authentic, it has been going for more than 25 years. Moreover, it has a pure American spirit. We couldn’t just bring the festival over to Europe as it was. We knew that we would have to adapt it at its core, because the cycling culture here is very different to that of the United States. What we did want to maintain was the festival’s format with five well-defined cornerstones: the Expo zone, Demobike, sports competitions for both the public and top-level riders, kids’ activities and exhibitions, all taking place
outdoors with music and food, accompanied by the desire to celebrate the cycling festival.

What made the 2018 show so successful?

The first two editions laid the foundations to continue expanding and offering both exhibitors and visitors a leading event for achieving their goals. Sea Otter Europe expects considerable growth for the 2019 edition.

Regarding this year’s show, what are your expectations for visitor numbers?

50,000 people visited the last edition and we expect 60,000 to attend the forthcoming edition. We are anticipating this growth due to an increase in the brands that are exhibiting and down to the improvements that have been made in terms of what is on offer for visitors and participants of the festival’s different cycling disciplines.

How many exhibitors do you have confirmed so far for the 2019 Expo?

As of today the list is pretty long with almost 200 brands, those of whom have been attending since the first or second edition, such as; Cannondale, Canyon, Merida, Scott, Specialized, Trek, Mavic, BH, Powerbar, Northwave and Abus. There are also those joining for the first time, such as GT, Shimano and Mondraker, which are the most recent additions to the 2019 edition. There will also be others that we will be announcing shortly.

How integral is the Demobike schedule to the popularity of the show?

It’s a great way of bringing brands and products closer to the end customer. Consumers are more and more informed, but it is here where they can really interact with the product. What’s more, Sea Otter Europe designs fantastic routes for Demobike, above all for MTB bicycles, including XC, dual suspension and enduro. There is also a spectacular circuit for testing out e-Bikes, which are the bicycles with the most demand at the festival.

How do you think the European market has reacted to Sea Otter Europe since the first show in Girona?

There was a lot of uncertainty and expectation about the first edition. By the same token, it was received really well, and a lot of brands placed their trust in us and we are forever grateful for this. Many others came to check us out and although they didn’t exhibit anything, they came to see what the festival was like and what it was all about. In the second edition you could sense the good results of the first show, and many of those who were absent in 2017 signed up to Sea Otter Europe 2018. While we’re still in the organising stage of the third edition, we’re noticing that everything is coming together, and more brands related to bicycles, accessories, services, tourism, nutrition and clothing, among others, are approaching us wanting to be a part of the festival in some way or another, either through sponsorship, exhibiting or Demobike testing. They also ask us what we can do for them to make their participation really stand out.

Why is Girona your chosen location for the event?

Sea Otter Europe requires a great place to hold the event; a place with cycling in its DNA, that is open to sport and has good access and services, such as hotels and restaurants. Girona seemed like it was a good candidate and it has been the perfect place for Sea Otter Europe.

Are there any seminars or talks confirmed for the Expo?

At the moment, no. But we’re sure that some kind of interesting presentations will take place.

Do you think the show will continue to grow and be bigger than ever over the coming years?

All the figures are currently pointing towards this. More than 80% of the spaces have already been reserved, and practically 100% of the brands that were present in the second edition have confirmed for the forthcoming edition. What’s more, they are returning with larger spaces, either for greater brand presence, to present more brands or to bring a larger fleet of Demobike bicycles. Their proactivity is incredible, with a desire to attend and to attend with all they’ve got.

How did you react to the announcement that Interbike 2019 has been cancelled? Is this a worrying time for bike shows and festivals?

We’re surprised. It is a legendary fair in the United States and a real benchmark, but it seems that people are losing interest in traditional interior fairs. It’s highly likely that in the next few years the format of Sea Otter Europe will have to be updated in order to carry on providing the unexpected and generating interest. At the moment, we’re really excited about consolidating it as the best cycling festival in the south of Europe with our own format, which seems to be working at present.

Brands confirmed for Demobike at Sea Otter Europe 2019:

Berria, Bulls, Cannondale, Canyon, Cube, Focus, Ghost, Haibike, Hope, Ktm, Lapierre, Massi, Merida, MMR, Mondraker, Olympia, Peugeot Cycles, Rese and Muller, Scott, Specialized, Titici, Anda Bike Street Stepper, Abus and Sena, and many more…

Hayley Everett

Multimedia Reporter

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