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After 36 years as South Africa’s go-to, must-visit hospitality trade show, Hostex is stepping up this year with a return to the Sandton Convention Centre and a newly revived show that’s set to deliver an extraordinary experience across the board. We chatted with Show Director Nick Sarnadas to find out more about his vision for the show, what visitors can expect, and how they’re hoping to inspire long-lasting change throughout the industry.

There’s a new energy in the air at Hostex 2020 – and the feeling was palpable not only at the Exhibitors Meeting towards the end of last year, but while speaking to Show Director Nick Sarnadas. “Our commitment to this show is that we’ll deliver something that the industry has never experienced. They’re going to come to the show and go wow,” says Nick, who says that you can already feel the sentiment in the market. “We’re trying to make the show experience different in every way, starting from the moment you arrive to walking through the show to the food and everything we do.”

So, what’s changed? After overwhelming feedback from the industry, the show has moved back to the Sandton Convention Centre, the hub of hospitality in Gauteng. It’s set to be bigger than last year, taking over two halls, with equipment and coffee in one and food in the other. Also, the show will be held earlier than in recent years, from the 1st to the 3rd of March.

But these are just logistics. The big change this year isn’t about bells and whistles, it’s about going back to the basics. Through feedback and discussions with industry and Hostex’s ambassadors (click here to find out more about the leaders putting their weight behind the show), the Hostex 2020 team learned the industry’s wants and needs and aims to deliver that curated content over three entertaining and engaging days.

“Industry has said that they want a different Hostex, and that’s what we’re going to give them,” says Nick. “The show’s content has been curated for what hospitality in SA is looking for, there’s a different look and feel, and this year the exhibitors are going the extra mile.”

The themes are a new addition, with each day dedicated to a different subject that’s increasingly important in the industry – sustainability, women in hospitality and education. These overarching themes will guide content throughout the show, as well as inspire both the organising team and exhibitors to think outside the box for that day.

On a visual level, Hostex 2020 will take inspiration from local markets, offering the personal touch but on a larger scale. “Even though our audience is trade, we’re all consumers at the end of the day,” says Nick. “We want our visitors to arrive and experience something that they would get outside of industry.”

One of the new features that ticks that box is the Incubator Hub, which will showcase SMEs that wouldn’t traditionally be found at a large-scale event. “We’re approaching small and medium producers that produce excellent, interesting products and are ready to scale their business,” says Nick.

“We want to inspire our exhibitors to inspire visitors, so that they leave with a sense of pride at being part of Industry. We want to start conversations that can be continued outside of the show. We want to create something that shows that this industry is better together. We want to create long-lasting meaning for industry because Hostex is bigger than three days.”

Another change is Host-ED, which has been revamped and is now IndustryLive! Here, experts in their field will speak on the subjects that are pertinent to trade, including topics such as food trends, human resources and legal issues, health and wellbeing, sustainability and technology.  “We’ve spent considerable time putting together the perfect programme, and we’re excited about what’s going to be on show,” says Nick. “Basically, if it doesn’t have relevance for the industry or add meaningful value, then we’ve stripped it away.” IndustryLive! is free to attend, so keep your eyes peeled for the finalised programme which will be released closer to the show.

In addition to working closely with the Hostex Ambassadors, Nick and his team have been attending key industry events in the run up to the event. “While we’re part of the hospitality industry, we’re not at the coal face every day. That means we need to engage with and be as deeply involved in the community as we can be,” says Nick. “Through our conversations at these events, we gain insight which we share with our exhibitors and use to guide our planning. We’re constantly testing feedback through meaningful engagement with industry to find out what’s going to be beneficial to our audience.”

But while the Hostex team has plenty of ideas and innovations in the pipeline, and a whole heap of energy to drive the show, they need the industry’s support. “We are creating something extraordinary, the best Hostex we’ve ever had, but we can’t do that by ourselves,” says Nick. To make Hostex 2020 the best show possible, Nick and his team is calling on industry to get excited and get involved in this year’s show. “We want to inspire our exhibitors to inspire visitors, so that they leave with a sense of pride at being part of Industry. We want to start conversations that can be continued outside of the show. We want to create something that shows that this industry is better together. We want to create long-lasting meaning for industry because Hostex is bigger than three days.”

Through feedback and consultation with its Ambassadors and Industry, the Hostex 2020 team has put a lot of effort into finding out what the hospitality trade is looking for, and they’ve thought long and hard about how to make it happen. With a world class venue, vibrant Incubator Hub, and curated IndustryLive sessions that speak to industry’s real-world needs, this year’s Hostex is set to be a showstopper. And we can’t wait to see you all there.

To register for free entry to Hostex 2020, click here. Hostex 2020 will be taking place at the Sandton Convention Centre from 1 – 3 March. On Sunday and Monday the show will be open from 09h30 to 17h00, and on Tuesday from 09h30 to 16h30. For further information, visit the Hostex website here

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