Value Added Tax
➤ VAT is 20 percent and is charged on most goods imported into or purchased in London.
➤ A 5-percent duty tax is often applied to shipments and sometimes to exhibit space and show services.
➤ Exhibitors can recover most VAT by submitting the appropriate forms to HM Revenue and Customs (www.hmrc.gov.uk), but enlisting a tax expert for assistance is advised.
➤ An ATA Carnet may be used to avoid VAT on items that will not remain in the United Kingdom.
➤ London operates on 220 volts, and electric sockets require the round two-prong Euro-plug or a rectangular three-prong plug.
➤ Exhibitors typically order trash bins for I&D refuse. Most show contractors will collect the bins and empty them for a fee, or exhibit builders may remove the trash and dispose of it at an alternate location.
➤ Garbage handling is ordered through the venue, and booth cleaning through the show organizer.
➤ Arrange an international calling plan from your provider.
➤ Alternately, buy a prepaid phone, an international calling card, or a SIM card at the airport or local kiosks.
➤ Shipments sent by ocean freight should arrive at least seven days before setup, and airfreight should arrive at least five days in advance.
➤ Using a freight forwarder is recommended.
➤ Sending your shipments to London via airfreight can take from two to three days; ocean freight takes one month.
➤ Permission to play music should be obtained from show organizers, and volume restrictions are enforced. Royalties may be required.
➤ Dial 999 for all emergencies in London.
Greetings and Culture
➤ The phrase "How do you do?" is a typical greeting, but it is not a question. It should be responded to with "How do you do?"
➤ A handshake with a friendly "Hello" is appropriate for both men and women.
➤ When meeting someone for the first time in London, you should not address them by their first names unless you have been invited to do so.
➤ Personal space and a calm demeanor are important in this culture, and the English may be put off by overly close or loud communication.
➤ Business cards are typically exchanged at the end of a conversation or immediately after meeting.
➤ In-booth hospitality is common in large exhibits. Very large companies may serve full meals, and others provide finger sandwiches, canapĂ©s, and an assortment of beverages.
➤ Most small booths serve coffee, soft drinks, and candies or snack mixes.
➤ Alcohol is common on the show floor, with beer most often served. Exhibitors at some shows will host happy hours in their exhibits, but refer to the show manual for regulations.
➤ English is obviously the native language in London, and though many immigrants live in the city, English is universally spoken throughout the business community.
➤ Signs and literature should be printed with British English spellings. For example, in Great Britain, the American English spelling of catalog would be catalogue, organize would be organise, and labor is spelled labour.
➤ Business suits are common for both men and women at most industry events. However, attire at London shows has been trending toward less formal, though still chic, options.
➤ Diagonal striped ties should be avoided, as certain color combinations in the United Kingdom denote current or past attendance at notable universities. Only current students and alumni of those schools are considered entitled to wear them.
➤ Piercings (other than traditional earrings) and tattoos should be concealed unless you are at an industry show where such adornments are common.
Venues and Resources
➤ ExCel London is the largest exhibit venue in London, with 1.1 million square feet of meeting and exhibition space. The venue also has five hotels and more than 40 restaurants and bars on site, and is in close proximity to public transportation. Located seven miles west of downtown London, it is 21 miles from Heathrow Airport and 27 miles from London Gatwick Airport.
➤ The Olympia Conference Centre has more than 500,000 square feet of event space. It is four miles west of downtown London, is flanked by hotels, restaurants, and public transportation options, and is 11 miles from Heathrow Airport and 24 miles from London Gatwick Airport.
➤ The Event Suppliers and Services Association (ESSA) is a trade association representing contractors and suppliers of goods and services to the events industry (www.essa.uk.com).
Installation and Dismantle
➤ London does not have labor unions. Workers can be secured through exhibit builders or show organizers.
➤ Exhibitors may need to contract the venue's labor for rigging, mechanized equipment, and electricity.
➤ Walls extending over 8 feet must be covered.
➤ Fabric must carry a Class 1 fireproof rating.
General Facts and Tips
➤ Bring a portable umbrella with you everywhere in London, as rain is frequent.
➤ Do not make the peace sign with your palm facing you in the United Kingdom as it is an insulting gesture in the English culture.
➤ London's subway, called the "tube," is an efficient and inexpensive means of travel throughout the city.
➤ When traveling in groups of four or more, taking a taxi will be cheaper than purchasing four adult fares on the tube. However, for multiple rides using the subway, buying an Oyster Card for discounted fares is the most economical means of travel throughout London.
➤ Hotels within walking distance of major convention venues are plentiful, though most trade show and event facilities are also accessible from downtown London hotels within approximately 15 minutes.
➤ Smoking is not legal indoors, though the habit continues to be prevalent among English people.
Ed Jacquest, transportation manager, MG Design Associates, Chicago; Tim Matthews, director, OX2P, London; Jason Popp, executive vice president international, Global Experience Specialists, Chicago; James Prescott, creative project manager, GLS Design, Farnham, United Kingdom; Kelli Steckbauer, director of global business, MG Design Associates, Chicago; Jeannine Swan, president, Global Exhibit Management, Fort Worth, TX