GES’ Acquisition of onPeak and Travel Planners is a Game Changer

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Las Vegas, NV– When Global Experience Specialists (GES), a leading provider for live events, announced bright and early on October 8 that it had acquired onPeak and Travel Planners, it emerged as a major provider of housing services overnight.

The two firms will be combined into a new division under the name onPeak, a GES Global Company (onPeak | GES).

Separately, the two housing firms dominated in market share of the nation’s largest shows in 2013. Together, the union creates an even bigger powerhouse:  the pair managed the housing for 53% of the 100 largest trade shows, as well as five of the 10 largest shows including ICUEE, both semi-annual MAGIC shows, SEMA Show (Specialty Equipment Market Association) and NBAA (National Business Aviation Association) Exhibition, according to Trade Show Executive’s Gold 100 directory to be released October 22. Other housing contractors include Experient, with a 7% market share of the Gold 100; Expovision, with 5%; Wyndham Jade, with 4%; and Par Avion with 3%.

GES President Steve Moster said the acquisition was made in response to customer demand for show services from a single provider. “onPeak and Travel Planners are the two leading housing companies in the market,” Moster said. “Their services and offerings were similar in nature, so it was a major opportunity for us.”

“Our goal is to be the preferred global full-service provider for live events,” Moster told TSE. “And we have been making a lot of progress toward that.”

Paul Dykstra, CEO of GES’ parent company, Viad Corp., pegged the market value of event housing at around $200 million. “We had identified event housing as a key adjacent service for GES,” Dykstra said. “The U.S. event housing market is large and attractive. We are excited to have immediately gained a leading position in that market through the acquisition of onPeak and Travel Planners and look forward to offering yet another value-added service to all parties – event organizers, exhibitors, attendees and hoteliers.”

The new onPeak | GES will have about 200 employees and be led by Michael Howe, formerly president of onPeak and now executive vice president of onPeak | GES. Howe will report to Moster. Lisa Baez, executive director of Travel Planners, was named vice president of housing account services for the new division. The company will maintain its offices in Chicago, New York City, and Atlanta.

Moster said the acquisition gives his company an edge over competitors, who do not offer housing services.

Customers will be able to use onPeak | GES for their housing needs even if GES is not their official service contractor. But Moster predicted that the allure of seamless one-stop shopping will entice more show organizers to use GES for all of their services. “Our teams will be working together,” he said.

Both onPeak and Travel Planners offer similar services and are considered to be up-to-date on the technical side. “The housing industry has been a competitive one, which has pushed all of the participants to be better,” Moster said. “The role that housing plays is key because it starts the whole experience for attendees and exhibitors.”

The trade show experience also begins with registration. Moster declined to comment on whether or not adding a registration firm would be GES’ next strategic move.

The addition of onPeak and Travel Planners came less than a month after GES had bolstered its international audio-visual assets by acquiring London-based Blitz Communications.

Moster said the new housing operation would have a positive impact on revenues in 2015.

Viad Corp., the parent company of GES, last reported that its Marketing & Events Group took in $226.6 million in revenues in the Second Quarter of 2014 with U.S. revenues up 8.6% in the quarter to $168.8 million.

Reach Steve Moster at (702) 515-5500 or smoster@ges.com; Michael Howe at (312) 527-7270 or mhowe@ges.com; Lisa Baez at (212) 532-1660, x2040, or lbaez@ges.com