Price-conscious visitors need to plan their K 2004 visit

Visits to trade shows are never cheap, and K is no exception. But there are ways to cut expenses considerably.

This year sees a hefty rise in entrance ticket and catalog prices (March MP/MPI) as well as a continuing complaint that city hotels tend to gouge fair visitors by raising rates during the show and requiring visitors to book rooms for the show''s duration—even if they are staying for just a few days.

For some, a group trip can offer a cost-effective alternative to individual plans. Several national trade associations and trade publications offer special packages. For Swiss and Lichtenstein visitors who plan to take only a single day for their visit, the Swiss Plastics Association (Aarau) is offering one-day trips to the show for CHF 620 ($494). This includes airport taxes and bus transfer from the Dusseldorf airport to the fairgrounds, but not the entrance fee to the show.

Balkan visitors can travel with Juplas, the Jugoslav Plastic Industry Business Association (Belgrade, Serbia/ Montenegro). The association arranges lodging just before the show starts to avoid having to pay a large hotel deposit, says Juplas assistant director Dragan Nastovic. The group is then able to get cheaper accommodations in more distant Cologne or Aachen, and Juplas offers a daily bus transfer to and from the show. It also organizes the flight and entrance visas, and will help arrange appointments to specific exhibitors'' stands.

Horst Schmidt, an Eastern European sales manager for exhibitor and extrusion equipment maker SML Extrusion Technology (Lenzing, Austria) says his company invites customers and prospects from his region and then books a block of hotel rooms in Munster, Germany, some 125 km (78 miles) from the fair grounds for them to use during the show. "Hotel prices are much more reasonable in Munster than in Dusseldorf, and since Messe Dusseldorf has changed the opening and closing times to miss the greatest part of the rush hour, we are able to make a quick run to the show," says Schmidt.

Online news service PEPlus.co.uk (Bromley, England) has booked 34 cabins on a vessel moored on the Rhine, within walking distance of the show grounds. Overnight costs range from £190 to £220 ($355 to $411) including breakfast. "We''ve found many visitors are willing to bunk in the same cabin as one of their colleagues to save costs," says Simon Murray from PE Plus. "They also like that they can book the cabin for as many nights as they want, at the beginning or end of the show, without having to pay for the entire week, as is the procedure with many city hotels."

Murray says his group has given up trying to coordinate air fairs to Dusseldorf because they can''t compete against budget airlines. Ryanair, for example, offers early booking of flights from London to Niederrhein airport, some 80 km from the show, for as little as £1.29 ($2.41) one way.

10 things we love about K: No. 7

Getting to Dusseldorf is easy. The city boasts a new airport terminal, rebuilt following a devastating fire in 1996. The newly arrived wanting cash can use debit cards and credit cards at ATMs located in the central arrivals area. Want to leave documents, keys, or messages at the airport during your visit? A safe-keeping service allows passengers to drop off items at a checkroom. Charges for items under 30 kg are €2.50/24 hr. To see if your flight is likely to leave on time while you are still at the show, one can have the airport send text message to your cell phone (www.duesseldorf-international.de).

K visitors arriving at Frankfurt''s Rhine-Main Airport will find it easy to depart for Dusseldorf from the airport''s long-distance train station adjacent to the arrivals terminal. German Rail offers hourly high-speed (300 km/hr, 187 miles/hr) InterCity Express (ICE) trains for a quick 83-minute ride to Dusseldorf Central Station. Those flying American Airlines or TAP Air Portugal can use their code-sharing ticket from Frankfurt airport to Dusseldorf at no extra charge. Passengers arriving at Cologne-Bonn airport can travel by a new rail link to Dusseldorf, which starts in June.

Robert Colvin bcolvin@modplas.com

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