A novel event organiser has placed record high offers to host the upcoming Christmas and Easter bazaar at Addis Abeba's oldest exhibition venue.

Betahon Special Events has offered a total of 111 million Br for the contract to host two events at the Addis Abeba Bazaar & Exhibition Centre, submitting a 68 million Br bid for the Christmas Bazaar, which will be held for three weeks in December, and 43 million Br for the Easter event, which is to last for a similar period of time in April 2022. The bid offered is 65pc higher than the previous record of 67 million Br made for the two events.

Betahon was one of the five bidders. It is a sister company of Betahon Trading Plc, engaged in import-export, car rental, and security works for over 11 years. If awarded, the event organising firm will host the two events at the centre, incorporating four pavilions of different sizes to accommodate around 300 booths.

Founded in 1983, the Exhibition Centre, which also features a restaurant and a cinema, has been hosting holiday bazaar and expos for over two decades. It was the capital's lone exhibition venue until Millennium Hall, developed by Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi, entered the business over a decade ago. The Hall is currently being used as a COVID-19 treatment centre.

Mechare Meda, in the Sarbet area, is also growing in popularity, hosting Jorka Events' Christmas and Easter bazaars earlier this year.

Betahon took part in the bidding for the first time, bidding against organising veterans.

Eyoha Addis Entertainment placed the second-highest offer of 36 million Br for each bazaar. Incorporated by Ayu Alemu six years ago with 50,000 Br capital, Eyoha is one of a few veterans in the event industry, hosting seven holidays exhibitions in the past. It will host the upcoming Ethiopian New Year Expo at the same venue, a bid it won for 46.7 million Br earlier this year. It plans to rent out nine-square-metre lots to vendors for 21 days at a 125,000 Br fee.

Commercial Nominees Plc has offered a total of just over 60 million Br for the Christmas and Easter bazaars. Commercial Nominees was established 46 years ago with equity contributed by the state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) and the now-defunct Construction & Business Bank, as a property management company.

The oldest in the league, Century General Trading, has offered bids of 30 million Br and 25 million Br to host both events, the lowest offer among the bidders.

Betahon's markedly high offer turned heads during the bid opening on August 10, 2021, but its management is happy with the outcome, asserting that they have made their offers after considering inflation. However, representatives of the company declined to comment on how they are planning to recoup their investments on the two events.

Those in charge of the Exhibition Centre are just as pleased with the high offers and see it as a sign of recovery. The Christmas and Easter holiday expos were cancelled last year due to COVID-19, which hit the event industry hard.

The participation of a newcomer such as Betahon is a welcome change, according to Tilahun Tadesse, general manager of the Centre, which is under the supervision of the Exhibition Centre & Market Development Enterprise.

"We're glad to see new faces in the industry," said Tilahun.

The Enterprise is a wing of the Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Association and manages the Centre under a contractual agreement with the Addis Abeba City Administration, which recently granted it the right to manage the revamped Mesqel Square. The Centre earned 97 million Br last year, mostly from collecting rental fees from the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), which had used the venue as a storage site.

"The appetite of businesses is encouraging," said Tilahun. "Close to 85pc of the space for the New Year Expo has already been taken."

Others, however, do not see the inordinate offers in a positive light. To Tilahun Tsegaye, director-general of Commercial Nominees, the amount offered by Betahon is stretched and neglects current economic difficulties.

"The third wave of COVID-19 is on its way, and inflation is going high, not to mention the current security concerns in the country," he said. "The offer is a bit unrealistic."

This may have come due to bidders' lack of understanding of the exposition industry, says Mekdela Mekuria, a vice president of the Marketing Professionals Association and a lecturer at St. Mary's University for 17 years. He sees the high offer may lead to exorbitant prices for vendors looking to rent out space at the expos – potentially discouraging them from taking part.

Betahon had planned to host a financial sector exhibition dubbed the "Ethiopian Bank & Insurance Expo" in April last year, but the event was cancelled due to concerns about COVID-19. Following the signing of the contract, the company will have to submit 20pc of the total amount as a downpayment for the bazaar events organisers hope will attract 30,000 people a day.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 14,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1111]

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