Global Edition

GBN Interview: Paul Vasdev, Trade Show Travel Guru

4.14pm 19th December 2019 - Interviews - This story was updated on Saturday, December 21st, 2019

Zoe King and Paul Vasdev

We talk to Paul Vasdev from Exposé Travel, specialists in arranging international trade show travel

How long have you been doing this?

For 19 years – we were established in 2000. I moved to the UK from Kenya in 1968, when I was a teenager, and I then spent twenty years in the travel business before I started Exposé Travel.

Who’s in your team?

There’s myself plus account handlers Zoe King and Meena Ravi. Zoe has been with us since more or less the start.

Zoe doesn’t play golf but I do – badly! I’ve reached the dizzy heights of 17 handicap before, and I’ve been a member at Shirley Park GC in Croydon for over 25 years, but nowadays I’m not the best guy to draw as your partner in a pairs matchplay …

 What’s special about Exposé Travel?

We have a huge amount of repeat business because we deal with clients on a very personal basis. This is the essence of Exposé Travel.

We’re not a big organisation where you’ll be looked after by a different person each time you call.

There’s loads of travel choice out there, but we have kept a lot of our clients for a long time. They know they can call me any time – Saturday, Sunday, even when I’m on holiday myself – and Zoe or I will help them.

That’s the personal touch. We know our clients so well. They just have to call us up and tell us what they want, and then they can relax.

They know we’ll put the whole trip together for them, at a price which they just can’t get elsewhere.

Because of this we get to know people’s preferences, and we go out of our way to look after them.

When people from the UK travel long-haul to a trade show, they’re away from home for around five or six days, on average. We find that people like to know that a friend is there for them, on the phone at all hours of the day, in case they have a travel emergency.

We are that friend.

Zoe and I have known most of our clients for many years, in some cases over a decade. With so much choice and complexity out there for business travellers, our clients prefer to have a single travel guru at the end of a phone line to help them cut through it all and get the best deal for exactly the right travel package.

We’re the trade show specialists, and we have very personal, long-term relationships with our clients. Our speed of response is superb, and we’re always available in an emergency.

If people are travelling outside the UK, that’s where we get the best value for them.

We have also forged close, long-term relationships with the major airlines, so we get the best prices. We have great relationships with Virgin, Emirates, Qantas, BA, Cathay Pacific, American Airlines and many more. The airlines look after us, price-wise, because of the business we have sent them over nearly twenty years.

Why are you the #1 travel agents for the PGA Show in Orlando?

We just know it backwards. We’ve been sending clients to the PGA Show in Orlando since more or less when we started in 2000, so we have been the PGA Show specialists for almost twenty years now.

Even now, in December, plenty of people won’t yet have sorted their travel out to the PGA Show. There’s still deals around and I know we’ll get more calls as the Show approaches.

This time around, for the first time the PGA Show and the Golf Industry Show are happening in the same week, in Orlando in January 2020. Usually they are a week apart and in different cities, but this year the PGA Show finishes on the Friday and the GIS Show starts on the Saturday, both in the same Convention Center (albeit in a different part of the building).

When it comes to the PGA Show we have worked with Reed Exhibitions, the organisers, and their housing bureaus for almost twenty years.

The travel industry likes you to spend Saturday nights away, but for the PGA Show that’s not ideal for many UK customers – the timings don’t work that way for what is a Tuesday-Friday show if you include Demo Day.

But if you use Exposé Travel, you’ll get a great deal on the PGA Show even if you’re not booking a Saturday night. That’s because we have been doing this for so long.

People know by now, I think, that we simply can’t be beaten as we’re the acknowledged PGA Show experts.

Why specialise in trade shows?

We don’t only do trade shows of course: we also do individual travel, mainly long-haul, so it’s not all about exhibitions for us.

And we’ll definitely save you money on any long-haul trip you ever do. That means anywhere in the world, outbound from the UK.

But it’s also good to specialise. You become the best option in that particular field. It’s a huge global market and we have hundreds of clients who travel the world to trade fairs every year.

So we are definitely the best people to talk to about those Shows, but we cover much more.

Each year we send golf industry people all over the world, with more and more people travelling to the Far East in recent years as that region has seen an increase in golf tourism from the West.

Outside of golf, we send people to many of the world’s biggest trade fairs such as CES and National Hardware Show in Las Vegas, the Toy Fair in Nuremburg, the Inspired Home Show in Chicago, the Electronics Fair and Licensing Show in Hong Kong, and car shows around the globe including China, Malaysia and Vietnam among many other countries.

Have you seen a change in the types of customer you get from the golf market?

Yes, we have. A few years ago, there were definitely more small UK firms trying to build their business in the United States by attending the PGA Show. That kind of business still exists, of course, but nowadays we are dealing more and more with the bigger, more established companies who fly a lot of their staff out to Orlando each year.

Have you seen any rises / falls in the numbers of people travelling ex-UK to golf business events, over the years?

There’s no doubt that less people in the UK golf business travel out to the PGA Show each January, these days. We’ve seen a gentle decline in UK visitors to that particular trade show over the last decade.

The same goes for the PGA Apparel Show each August.

It’s definitely easier to do business from a distance these days, with fast internet speeds, more video conferencing services and so on.

But, luckily for us, business always works best when you cultivate contacts on a personal, face-to-face basis. As it gets easier to do business globally, there will always be millions of UK businesspeople who like to pack their bags, jump on a plane, and go and meet people in person.

In fact, around 8 million people do this each year from the UK. Business travel is definitely alive and well!

What advice do you always give to travellers?

Give yourself enough time! There are very few problems which can’t be fixed, if you get yourself ready to travel in plenty of time. Always, always try to get to the airport before your check-in gate opens, if you can, so you can anticipate any issues early. And never check in less than two hours before your flight departs, no matter how short the trip.

Also, on long haul always stay with the same airline, or airline group, throughout your trip. You’ll get way better value. We can sort this out for you, of course.

Zoe and I are more or less always available on the end of the phone line, if you hit a snag in your trip at any point – from before you reach the airport, to when you land back at home again.

What aspects of a golf business trip do you cover?

Everything that you’d expect – flights, hotels, car hire, transfers and insurance.

The only common aspect of a golf trade show trip which we don’t really cover are your green fees, which we usually ask you to book yourself – unless you’re staying at a golf resort of course and then green fees are often part of the package.

We are also experts at arranging full golf holidays in some of the more exotic parts of the golfing world, namely Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and India.

We specialise in Argentina too. That is an absolutely amazing golf holiday – I highly recommend it!

I have travelled to all of these golf destinations myself, so when I give travel advice on an exotic golf holiday, I am always speaking from personal experience.

Is travel insurance usually part of the package?

We always offer to arrange it at the same time as the travel itself, and yes people often ask us to arrange their insurance too, so as to keep things simple.

Just like with the airlines, we’ve worked for many years with insurers, so the rates we get are really good. And again, just like with people’s travel plans, we’re happy to help them look into special circumstances as regards travel insurance.

Have there been any unusual incidents that you can remember?

Touch wood, our golf customers seem to lead fairly uneventful lives! But back in the day when I used to arrange travel for many people in the music business, we had all sorts of things happen.

Debbie Harry’s manager rang me once from her hotel room, saying that her sandwiches had gone curly and could I call the hotel for a fresh plateful. And a top record company exec once rang me and instructed me to call British Airways and hold the flight, because he was stuck on the M25.

We did Spandau Ballet’s first European Tour .. The Pretenders, Huey Lewis and The News, Eric Clapton, Leo Sayer, Mott The Hoople .. I’m showing my age here!

 Do you have a favourite golf trade show?

It’s got to be the PGA Show, every January. It might not be quite as big as it used to be, but that week is about so much more than standing on a booth for three days. We love to handle every aspect of ‘PGA Show week’ for our clients – although we can’t get them an Uber when they spill out of Howl At The Moon. They have to do that for themselves …

Call Zoe King and Paul Vasdev at Exposé Travel on 01883 349576 now, or email zoe@exposetravel.uk

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