Real Business #3 - Escape Events

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By: Neil Edwards on 11th March 2010, 4 minute read

Real Business is a series of posts that analyses the marketing opportunities and challenges of real businesses in the South East. The articles are also appearing inThe Courier.

Escape Events is the brainchild of West Malling resident, Martin Anslow.

Martin has a background which combines both exhibitions and a love of travel. After gaining experience in the exhibitions industry, Martin took five years out to spend his winters in the mountains which then funded his summers travelling.

With start-up funds of just £5,000 saved from his last ski season Martin launched his first event, The Adventure Travel Show, in 1995. The original show welcomed 2,000 visitors and generated revenue of £20,000. By 2005, it had 30,000 visitors and a turnover of £800,000.

Martin then began to look at other niche areas of travel and launched The Spa Show in 2004.

Martin sold The Adventure Travel Show for a seven-figure sum in 2006 and The Spa Show in 2007.

Looking back, I sold at the right time. However, while I gained financial security, I didn’t find it as satisfying as running my own company, says Martin.

At the beginning of last year, the opportunity arose to buy Adventure Travel back and Martin ‘leapt at the chance’.

Relaunching has been a massive challenge almost harder than starting from scratch, he says. The industry has changed quite a lot over the past four years. Adventure holidays are now quite mainstream so travellers are looking for something more.

In terms of the business itself, Martin has noticed that exhibitors and sponsors are demanding more for their money.

So we are having to be more careful about what we spend our money on particularly when it comes to marketing. Previously, we’d do a lot of advertising on the tube, for example, but now it’s more focused on the Internet.

As with any exhibition organiser, Escape Events has to juggle the fact that money does not come in steadily over a 12-month period, but just before an exhibition. One way Martin is dealing with this is to launch more shows. He unveiled The Cruise Show last year and is identifying other niche areas of the travel sector, as well as looking to launch some shows overseas.

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The Marketing Eye says:

Marketing budgets are under pressure everywhere and Marketing Directors need to show an unambiguous and often short term return on the money they spend. Exhibitions are notoriously difficult to measure the success of, which means that Escape Events needs to clearly demonstrate to exhibitors how involvement at the shows can increase sales or improve brand visibility. Exhibitors should be provided with lots of ways to leverage their attendance before and after the event, for example with data capture, pre and post show marketing opportunities and brand visibility beyond the stand itself.

Before committing, exhibitors and sponsors need confidence that the show is going to attract the right footfall in the right quantity. A good marketing strategy provides reassurance that this will happen. The Internet is wonderful, but Escape Events should make sure it is switching to on-line promotion because it is better than off-line activity, not simply because it is cheaper. PR should not be overlooked either. There are good speakers at each event who can be engaged to raise profile in editorial.

Expansion into other shows is a wise move. Escape Events is proving to be an efficient ‘engine’ for the organisation and promotion of events, which could, in theory, be in any market. The brand is in the shows themselves, so there is little risk of diluting the Escape Events brand by expanding into new areas.

With thanks to freelance journalist, Angela Ward, who is interviewing the businesses featured in these posts.

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Neil Edwards


Neil Edwards

Neil is a Chartered Marketer and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing with many years' experience in marketing, brand and communications.

CEO / The Marketing Eye

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