Dare to be different

Telford and Shropshire is fast building itself as a destination with a reputation for leading innovation and creativity in business tourism. Its attendance at Event UK this year further enhanced this with the unveiling of its new Green Network – a pioneering approach to sustainability in conferencing designed to push the boundaries of green business and promote sustainability.
    
The area attracts in excess of 1.6 million tourists each year with over 5,000 major conferences and events set to take place in this centre of innovation in the next year. Bucking the economic trend, Telford and Shropshire is busier than ever with enquiries from major conference organisers looking to try something new in the heart of the UK. Telford and Shropshire provides creative venues, inspiring locations and out of the box ideas for powerful events. Added to this is real value for money and a location that is simply the natural place to meet in the heart of the UK.

High profile figures
A host of high profile anniversaries are propelling the area into the spotlight as a pioneering destination of distinction for the 21st century. Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury 200 years ago, his The Origin of Species changed the way we view the world today. Dr William Penny Brookes inspired the Modern Olympic Games as we know them and was born in Much Wenlock at the same time and Abraham Darby’s inspirational idea to change the way iron was made led to the birth of the Industrial Revolution 300 years ago.
    
Alongside the history of these outstanding individuals is a range of outstanding and unique venues catering for every business need – be that a need for 4 delegates or 4,000. From world-class convention centres, modern hotels, handsome country houses and castles to steam trains, unique museums and themed venues.

Creating a green network
In addition to a range of world-class facilities, Telford and Shropshire is unashamedly beautiful with acres of wide open, breathtaking landscapes, gorges and forests.
    
Ever committed to setting the standard for conferences and events, Telford & Shropshire Conferences has developed a Green Network – a selection of venues that are committed to sustainability and the environment and where environmental and corporate responsibility meet with a can-do attitude with regards to sustainable event policies and practices. Details of the Green Network were unveiled at Event UK in September with the Launch of the ‘Green Paper’ on the destinations stand F301. The launch promises to be unique and daringly different.
    
“Event UK provides the perfect platform to launch our network and tell UK event organisers about the world-class, green facilities that can be found in Telford and Shropshire – and our commitment to making business tourism in the region as sustainable as possible,” says Sarah Bird, business tourism manager for Telford & Shropshire Conferences.
    
“Our ‘Green Paper’ will provide a unique insight into the demands of buyers for more sustainable event locations and highlight what delegates and buyers really want – and expect – when it comes to green venues and how we as destinations can really help them meet a changing events market.  
    
“This is the start of a five year journey for Telford and Shropshire, a commitment that will see the destination evolve into a top sustainable events location in the UK. In tandem with the multi million pound developments taking place across the counties visitor facilities, this is exciting not only for us but for our UK customers.”
    
The Green Network will be supporting a number of initiatives in 2009. “We are working closely with our venues, accommodation providers and services to pursue professional accreditations. Telford and Shropshire already has very strong green credentials and over ten of our venues have already achieved accreditation through the Green Business Scheme – the national sustainable tourism certification scheme for the UK and the only certification scheme validated by Visit Britain, through the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT),” says Sarah.    
    
The Convention Bureau team at Telford & Shropshire Conferences have been working with leading sustainable events company Organise, and their not for profit company Positive Impact, to understand how to build the foundations for the destination as a leading sustainable events destination. “We have already held a consultation day with Positive Impact to understand the new BSI8901 Sustainable Events standard. The standard provides guidance on reducing carbon emissions and waste, improving the resource efficiency of the entire event supply chain as well as social impacts such as community involvement and fair employment,” comments Sarah.

The right connections
According to the Convention Bureau, one of the most popular misconceptions about Telford and Shropshire is that beautiful surroundings must mean inaccessibility. “We’re in the heart of England and getting to us and our venues is actually incredibly easy. We’re only 40 minutes from Birmingham, 2.5 hours from London in the South, Leeds in the North and North Wales in the West, and less than four hours travel from most of the rest of England and right in the heart of the motorway network.” says Sarah.
    
“But we also offer some unique services to our business visitors in terms of travel to help reduce their carbon footprint whilst still travelling in style. For example the new direct rail link from Marylebone to Shropshire provides business users travelling to The International Centre with what can only be described as an outstanding first-class service.”
    
The route runs up to five times a day and in addition to the standard services you would expect from a direct rail link, this service offers unique and bespoke services to business users heading to Telford and Shropshire.
    
Telford and Shropshire is also served by two international airports. Birmingham International Airport is less than 40 minutes drive away while Manchester Airport is less than 1.5 hours away; and Telford and Shrewsbury stations connect to the mainline intercity network that runs throughout the UK.
    
For those that prefer to drive, Telford and Shropshire is at the heart of the UK’s motorway network, connecting seamlessly to the M6, M5 and M1. It also connects quickly and easily to the M6 toll helping drivers avoid congestion around major city conurbations like Birmingham.

Pick ‘n’ mix venues
As well as offering a range of unique venues designed to inspire the imagination, Telford and Shropshire also has one of the UK’s top 10 convention and exhibition centres. The International Centre’s three exhibition halls offer a blank canvas to create the ultimate conference or gala dinner. The venue has one of the best simultaneous conference, exhibition and banqueting environments in the UK for events for 50 to national and international events for 4,000. An under-one-roof approach ensures the organiser has everything they want in one place including on site and group accommodation, in-house catering, event production and AV, and executive check-in to its 341 hotel rooms.
    
With over 40 venues to choose from there is something for every event in Telford and Shropshire. There are top town centre hotels including Rezidor Telford Park Inn and Shrewsbury’s Lion Hotel and country houses that combine modern meeting facilities with championship golf, spas and all the space you need to think. Unique venues that are simply out of the box include the Severn Valley Steam Railway to creative Enginuity, academic venues of scale and profile and historic houses that promise exclusivity and opulence.  

Edge of adventure
With all the natural assets you need for the perfect event during the day as well as after the conference, Telford and Shropshire offers the edge of adventure for your delegate. Whether its team building and outdoor pursuits or rewarding incentives there is a staggering landscape to explore. Experience the 450 acre town park just steps from The International Centre and one of the UK’s largest urban parks. Challenge yourself on the Adventure Rope Courses at Albrighton Hall Hotel, learn Pole Lathing at the Greenwood Centre or play a champions game on one of over 33 golf courses including Patshull Park and Hawkstone Park Hotel. If it’s relaxation you need there are award wining spa resorts to rejuvenate in, miles and miles of breathtaking scenery to explore and breathtaking landscapes that offer the space you need.
    
Telford and Shropshire has certainly put itself on the map thanks to a major investment programme over the last five years of over £78 million in new facilities and a new campaign driven by its ‘Dare to be Different’ message. The campaign, launched in London in February 2009, dared business users to sample the region’s unique venues and inspiring surroundings and the results have seen a surge in business.
    
There has been an explosion of investment in the region in recent years creating new and exciting venues including the £10 million Q Hotels’ Telford Golf and Spa Hotel, the £12.5 million National Cold War Museum, the iconic £28 million new Theatre Severn and the £10 million expansion of Blists Hill Victorian Town. The World Heritage Site of Ironbridge has also undergone development into a world-class visitor experience.
    
Access to all of these existing venues, and more, is being made ever easier by Telford & Shropshire Conferences and the Convention Bureau for the destination, which offers a range of free services to event organisers.
    
“Having a central, impartial point of contact for a destination can really help take the hassle out of organising an event,” says Sarah. “The Convention Bureau does just that. It provides free advice and support for event organisers to help create the perfect event, whether it is for 10 or 4,000 delegates. We can assist in venue finding and booking, finding accommodation, site inspections and facility visits, social and entertainment programmes and the provision of maps and guides. Basically, we’re here to help make the whole process of event organisation less stressful.”
    
However, Telford & Shropshire Conferences hasn’t stopped there. The organisation has also developed a range of new on-line services to help organisers make the most of the area, 24/7. A new website www.telford-shropshire.com gives access to a range of online tools such as ‘My Event Planner’, an online free event proposal service. There is also an interactive venue search to find the perfect venue in two minutes or less, an Organisers Toolkit and the destinations unique Pick N Mix Cards. The area also runs a series of familiarisation trips for event organisers that the region has dubbed ‘The Big Weekend’, the next one scheduled for March 2010.
    
“Telford and Shropshire is building a national reputation as a major events centre. We’ve been chosen as the location for the G8 Conference Away Day, Pro Retail, Youth Sports Trust and World Snooker events,” says Sarah. “It’s not just our location that makes us popular; it’s the people, the food, our dedication to providing a world-class service and our truly inspirational venues and event experiences. Like we say in Telford and Shropshire, Dare to be Different!”

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