Ahead of BTME, exhibitions continue to play a key role in health of industry

27 November 2023 BTME

As the industry looks towards BTME, we reflect on how exhibitions have continued to play a key role in health of greenkeeping and turf management industry.

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In the aftermath of the global pandemic, there was a degree of uncertainty regarding whether things would ever get back to normal. Would we ever again see thousands of greenkeepers unite in Harrogate each January for the BIGGA Turf Management Exhibition (BTME)?

And yet exhibitions have bounced back, with the organisers of our industry’s major events posting record numbers of attendees. Back in January, BIGGA saw our highest-ever preregistration numbers for BTME and the feedback we received was an overwhelming sense of gratitude as attendees enjoyed the first ‘normal’ staging of the event since early 2020.

At the inaugural GroundsFest in September, the organisers claimed 6,511 unique visitors. Just two months later and the Grounds Management Association hosted SALTEX at the National Exhibition Centre, where over 7,900 visitors attended the two-day event.

By making available opportunities to build relationships in a face-to-face setting, events like BTME are once again playing a key role in the careers of turf professionals. The wider industry is also appreciating the opportunity to attend events and with two months to go until BTME takes place, 110 companies have already signed up to take part – already an increase on 2023.

So, what makes events like BTME so important to attendees?

Jim Croxton, BIGGA CEO, explained:

“Our association grew out of a commitment among our turf professional forefathers to build a community that helps everyone who gets involved to achieve greater things. When the associations that came before BIGGA were being formed it was by greenkeepers and trade representatives who knew that by sharing knowledge and advice, they could build a stronger industry for all. Today’s trade exhibitions maintain that same ethos and each year we are reminded that at the end of the day, there’s really nothing better than shaking hands, swapping stories and sharing quality time together.”

Trade shows are not a new development. It’s believed they originated in the Middle Ages and were key to the revival of the economic landscape and the spread of cultural influences throughout Europe. They helped build trade relationships, created new alliances and built stronger communities. Today, attendance at a trade show is important for much the same reasons – they help boost morale among teams, provide the opportunity for intensive skills and knowledge development, break up the monotony of a long UK winter and inform greenkeepers of the latest industry innovations and technology.

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Trade shows are large, complex events with planning taking place all year round


Nelson Milner is a greenkeeper at Southwick Park in Hampshire and he visited BTME for the first time in 2023. He said:

“My first impressions are that it is quite an amazing event. Being able to network, see new machinery, do lots of classes and learn a lot of things from professionals all over the world, it’s been a real learning curve for me.”

Another one to make the journey from the south coast in 2023 was Deputy Head Greenkeeper Harvey Sims, of Rowlands Castle, who agreed:

“I think this show at this time of year is amazing for the industry. All the stands you see are brilliant, everyone gets involved and there’s a lot of networking, while Continue to Learn is incredible so hats off to BIGGA for putting it on for us. It’s such an enjoyable time.”

Although the health of BIGGA isn’t tied directly to the success of BTME, revenue is used to support the association’s membership offering. Thankfully, anticipation for BTME 2024 is high and by November 2023, commercial stand space sold at the exhibition was already 3.5% higher than the 2023 total, with returning exhibitors expanding their presence by 200m. This stands to make January’s exhibition the second largest in modern times, after 2019.

Kevin Williams is an area sales representative for Tacit and Eagle, which specialise in golf course furniture. A newcomer to the industry, he said:

“From my perspective, it’s really useful to be able to see the bigger picture. It’s great to be able to network with a lot of clubs and be able to give some good demonstrations of our products.”

A more established exhibitor, Bernhard and Company is a regular attendee at BTME. Managing Director Steven Nixon said:

“We have been able to gain a great deal of insight and expertise from the industry by exhibiting and being present at trade shows around the world. Each of these shows is a great opportunity for us to get in front of customers, prospective customers and industry friends – it's a really valuable time for us.”

And these days it’s not just the greenkeeping community that benefits from events like BTME; the exhibition’s reputation has long been built around the warm welcome extended by the entire town of Harrogate to the turf management community.

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Trade shows give attendees access to the latest technology


At a time when tourism in North Yorkshire isn’t at its busiest, BTME provides a welcome boost to the economy of the town. Jim Mossman, owner of the Cold Bath Brewery directly opposite Harrogate Convention Centre, identified January and BTME as one of the most valuable times for business from events.

Jim said:

“That week transforms January. Those four or five days basically make our month. I talked to other pub owners and everyone is delighted about BIGGA. A lot of hospitality businesses make their money at the weekend, so if you get this boost on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, it’s a really good bonues. That probably more than doubles our take for the week.”

Bokmun Chan, managing director of the Studley Hotel and The Orchid, agreed:

“January can be a quiet period for hotels, retail and eateris. Having the BIGGA conference in town in January certainly brings in lots of delegates from around the world and that injection of business is very welcome. BTME is midweek, so it’s brilliant. All these people who have accommodation in town will be looking for places to eat and entertain clients. I think it’s an important event for the town.”

The Harrogate Convention Centre estimates that events it hosts attract more than 150,000 visitors to the town each year, bringing an economic impact of £35m and supporting thousands of jobs across the district.

Trade shows are experiencing a welcome resurgence as the world rebounds from the coronavirus pandemic. At BIGGA, we believe BTME plays an important role in the greenkeeping calendar and we look forward to welcoming our members, exhibitors and many others to the Harrogate Convention Centre in January.

Registration is already underway for BTME 2024 in January and with exhibitors signed up and a stacked programme of events supported by the influential Continue to Learn education programme, we’re certain the importance of trade shows will continue to be felt for years to come.

Sign up for BTME 2024 today



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Karl Hansell
BIGGA | Head of Marketing and Communications

Karl has been head of communications for BIGGA since March 2016. His duties include editing the monthly Greenkeeper International magazine, in addition to other communications activities for the association.


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