What is Taste of Asia?
As with the other events within the Celebrasian Festival, Taste of Asia aims to bring people together through shared mediums – in this case food and travel. It is held over the May Bank holiday weekend (May 29-31) right beside the River Thames creating a wonderful ambience with aroma, colours and music. Visitors can see cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs such as Ken Hom, Nancy Lam and Ross Burden. There is also a performance stage with cultural performances from across Asia and a wide range of exhibitors from food to travel advice to artefacts to jewellery and fashion. Taste of Asia is our biggest event, a three-day festival and free for people to attend with around 60,000 expected in 2010.
What influenced your decision to include your chosen show features?
The initial idea was to simply do a food festival but it was felt that Asian food in particular has a history to it from a cultural perspective and also inspires people to travel to Asia.
Which other events do you consider to be competition and how is yours different?
Taste of Asia is quite unique as all of the “so-called” Asian festivals are always country-specific and are quite insular as they only attract those people from that specific country. Taste of Asia is not only Pan-Asian but also attracts a very mainstream audience as well, due to the location and British love of Asian food.
Taste of Asia was launched in 2008. 2010 is your third year. What new elements are you introducing and what lessons have you learned?
Location, location, location. The 2008 event took place by the Cutty Sark and whilst the council said that 50,000 people would come through the site, only about 15,000 did. This was the second lesson – don’t rely on others (especially councils) for marketing. In 2009, we moved to Potters Fields, near the Mayor’s offices, and footfall was much better. We have hired another space to make it bigger and a larger performance stage, which attracted a lot of people to the show. There will also be a VIP tent.
How is the event funded?
It was decided at the outset to make it a free show to create a big footfall. This is a positive and negative in that you have to get all the funding from sponsorship/exhibitors. Rangemaster is sponsoring the event for the third year running and tourism boards and restaurants are common exhibitors. 2009 was a very difficult year with the global credit crunch, especially as we had invested our own money significantly in the show. The recession did affect us greatly in 2009 with budgets severely depleted. We are hoping that 2010 will see bigger budgets return and tourism boards look to create their own themed areas. The new VIP area will also see the first paying customers. There is a thought of making it a paid event though not for a couple of years.
How large is the event team?
We have quite a small in-house team but have regular partners and suppliers, which we consider all part of the team. We have project managers contracted for different parts of the show, which leaves myself and my team to manage overall and speak with exhibitors, sponsors and attendees.
With four months to go what lessons have you learned and how are plans going?
Get things organised well in time and ensure the team is in place and know what they are doing. As with any event, especially in the current climate, you always worry about sales. Asians tend to book at the last minute, which does not help, but we have a much bigger database now to target, and have started the selling process much earlier.
How do you plan to grow the event in 2011?
We hope to outgrow the space by 2011 and also work closely with different Asian countries. We would like to create a members’ club, which has benefits with regards to data capture with a view to potentially making it a paid show or paid element within the show. Also we would love to be able to create specific country zones within Taste of Asia. This not only means the tourism boards can buy-in to the event but also hopefully it will outgrow the space, all of which helps the event’s bottom line.