Gert-Jan van den Nieuwenhoff - NWIT (Tourism Economics Outbound)- 1983

General Manager with Ahoy Rotterdam

What does that entail?My position is general manager, I am responsible for Ahoy’s business-to-business events organised by Ahoy itself. Through a management buyout arrangement, I have been co-owner of Ahoy since 2006 together with 4 of my colleagues. This means being co-owner of the operating company, because the buildings are owned by the municipality of Rotterdam. Business-to-business events are primarily trade shows. Over the past few years in particular, this portfolio has seen substantial growth by developing new productions ourselves, remaking existing productions into new productions (niches), cooperating with other parties, and by acquisitions. Our focus lies on trade shows which are connected with the port industrial complex of Rotterdam. Topics like shipbuilding, infrastructure, industrial maintenance, security and food make up a ‘connecting thread’ in our portfolio. Apart from trade shows, this portfolio also comprises other platforms in which our target groups communicate with each other and in which we ourselves communicate with our target groups. Just think of conferences, magazines, portals and network communities. These initiatives – which we develop and operate at our own expense and risk – take place in Ahoy and outside, depending on where our target groups and stakeholders want to meet. Ahoy trade shows, often as spin-offs of ‘parent’ trade shows, are organised in Belgium, Germany, Poland, Turkey, Qatar and China.            
What keeps you alert in this job?Current developments and market needs generally determine the amount of energy which we put into the development (or continued development) of platforms where people would like to meet. From the perspective of our core business – organising trade shows – we try to identify, in conjunction with strategic partners (trade associations, opinion leaders and knowledge institutions) what the market stakeholders need. Nowadays this primarily involves knowledge enhancement and network expansion, as opposed to the ‘old days’, when it was all about issuing quotations and following up on buy signals. New developments leading to applications in our focus domains therefore receive our greatest attention. In the broader scheme of things, we need to consider, of course, market developments in the field of forces in which Ahoy operates. We keep a critical eye on developments in terms of new buildings, theatres, conference centres, pop concert venues and so on. Especially when they serve the same market segments as Ahoy. As a result, we sometimes need to adjust our existing strategy and, quite often, take an active or proactive approach to preserve our market share. It goes without saying that the building, configuration, available capacity, and possibilities for expansion are evident in this respect. In that light, it is important for Ahoy to engage in 24/7 monitoring of occupancy as an important variable in its strategy. Our arena, halls and rooms (i.e. square meterage) make up our ‘stock’, which is always behind us and never ahead of us; in other words, unoccupied space today means unoccupied space forever.
Advice to students:Knowledge enhancement is essential, this means that there will always be platforms where knowledge transfer takes place. Physical platforms such as trade shows and conferences will always be needed, because people want to meet each other ‘live’. How can we strengthen interaction with all modern tools, including social media, ensuring maximum knowledge enhancement through efficient time investment. The bridge between physical and virtual exchange may be intensified in this process. New technologies and applications will be helpful. Today’s students who are going to add value to this process are worth ‘gold’ to our industry. As it happens, specialists might be in greater demand than generalists and career managers.
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