The event organiser’s favourite city

UK event organisers have voted London as their preferred destination in which to hold meetings and events. The research splits the industry into two distinct groups, association and corporate, and the survey found that 65 per cent of association organisers and 68 per cent of corporate organisers held an event in London in the 12 months prior to July 2007.
    
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said: “London’s excellent reputation and status as a global city means it attracts a real mix of business from all industry sectors. There is so much buzz around the city, fuelled by the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, new venues and new opportunities, all of which will make London even more attractive to event planners.”
    
Visit London is the organisation with the responsibility of promoting London to association and corporate business. This is achieved with strategic PR and marketing, by offering a free event enquiry service and destination guides, providing advice and special offers (available at visitlondon.com/business), organising regular familiarisation trips for event planners and supporting bids to bring major events to London.

Rewards for Excellence
London’s favoured position amongst the UK’s event organisers is in many ways a result of Visit London’s tenacious approach to promoting the capital to the business tourism industry. And the organisation’s success was rewarded on 15 October at the Meetings Industry Marketing Awards (MIMA), when it won three awards. Most prestigious was the gold award for best CD-ROM/DVD, followed by bronze for best destination brochure, and another bronze for best brand marketing campaign.
    
Visit London’s commercial director David Hornby said: “We are delighted to have won so many awards, especially against some strong competition. It is always good to have your hard work recognised and to highlight all that Visit London does to promote the capital.
    
“Our DVD promotes London as one of the best cities for events, conferences and meetings. It was launched at the MPI PEC-E 07 conference in Copenhagen to a key target audience of meeting/event planners and suppliers, and received a great response.”
    
London’s success as the UK’s most successful event destination could easily be put down to the fact that it’s the capital city, the largest city and the most affluent city in the country, but recent results from the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) suggest London has a wider appeal.

Growing International Popularity
Each year, ICCA publishes a report that ranks international cities from every corner of the globe against each other. London has been climbing up these rankings year on year and in 2007 jumped from 13th to 11th position, demonstrating the city’s popularity on an international level.
    
Tracy Halliwell, head of business sales & convention services, commented: “The ICCA results show that London is the UK’s preferred destination for association business. In 2004 we were in 19th position so we have made leaps and bounds in just a couple of years.”
    
In addition, the Union of International Associations (UIA) rated London 8th International Meetings City in 2006 and in the same year London was voted number 2 in the Anholt Nation Brands Index. The index measures the power and appeal of a nation’s brand image across six dimensions: exports, people, governance, tourism, culture and heritage.
    
Last year, association bookings accounted for 34 per cent of all confirmed business bookings received by Visit London’s venue enquiry service. The value to the city of association events booked through the service was over £77m.
    
This year ExCeL London demonstrated the capital’s appeal to conference delegates. BIBA – the British Insurance Brokers Association – annual conference held in May saw a rise of 60 per cent in visitor attendance while EAGE – the European Association for Geoscientist and Engineers – saw delegate numbers for this year’s event increase by 28 per cent compared to last year, the highest ever seen in the event’s 69 year history.
    
London will also host its first Meeting Professionals International (MPI) European Meetings and Events Conference at ExCeL London from 18 to 20 April 2008. The event traditionally attracts over 500 meeting planners and suppliers.

Impressive New Venues
The city is blessed with a huge choice of new large venues. The recently opened O2 boasts state of the art corporate entertainment facilities, with the O2 Arena able to hold an audience of up to 20,000, while the more intimate indigO2 has a 2,350 person capacity. Wembley Stadium, the home of England football has capacity for 1,000 for conferences and over 3,000 for receptions. The Royal Festival Hall, the centre piece of the Southbank Centre, has re-opened following a refurbishment; its auditorium can hold 2,780. The QEII Conference Centre has also been refurbished expanding its capacity from 1,000 to 1,300.
    
In the heart of Westminster next to Westminster Abbey, Church House Conference Centre this year reopened its doors after a year of refurbishment. The Assembly Hall, the largest room at Church House, has seen a major overhaul. The tiered seating has been removed and replaced with a level floor, making the hall much more versatile and able to cater for theatre style conferences and meetings for up to 664, and gala dinners and banquets for up to 372.
    
Another factor attracting event business to the capital is London’s growing hotel stock. 11,500 new hotel rooms are forecast to open in London during the next five years. Newly opened The Radisson Edwardian New Providence Wharf four-star hotel has 169 bedrooms, a business centre providing 24 hour a day access, and a conference suite with a 200 delegate capacity. The Park Plaza County Hall just south of Westminster Bridge opens this month with 395 bedrooms and The Sofitel London Heathrow at Terminal 5 will have 600 bedrooms and conference facilities for as many as 2,800 people when it opens next March.

First-class Infrastructure
London is already considered the world’s most connected city and following this month’s launch of Eurostar services from St Pancras International on 14 November, the city is now opening up to further opportunities from Europe with journey times cut to the capital. Paris to London will take just 2 hours 15 minutes and Brussels to London just 1 hour 51 minutes.
    
Another announcement, stating that the Crossrail project has been given the go-ahead, with construction starting in 2010 and completed in 2016, will boost London’s visitor economy and cement London’s competitive position as the number one city destination on the planet.
    
“Last year, over 6.6 million business visitors alone came to London spending £3.4 billion. The future success of our economy will be supported by linking Heathrow with the West End, the City and Canary Wharf,” commented Visit London’s Chief Executive James Bidwell.
    
There will also be extensions to the East London Line and Docklands Light Railway by 2010, which will accommodate more passengers to and from the Olympic park. When Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5 opens in March 2008, the airport’s capacity will increase by 30 million passengers per year.
    
Clearly, this is all good news and the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games are still five years away. London is expecting business tourism to continue increasing year on year up to the 2012 Games and plans are in place to ensure the buoyancy continues long after.
    
Tourism benefits from the 2012 Games are estimated to be worth an additional £2.1bn, with visitors from emerging markets being the key to the post-Games legacy.
    
Research commissioned by Oxford Economics concludes that the total potential tourism benefits expected from the Games range from £1.3bn to £2.2bn and from £1.6bn to £2.9bn for the UK as a whole.
    
Over half of the tourism gains are predicted to come during the post-Games period (2013-2017), generated largely by higher numbers of visitors from emerging markets, representing £1.27bn for the whole of the UK. Over two-thirds of this gain is predicted to be in London.
    
The research supports new findings from the Anholt-GMI Brand Index, which also shows that potential visitors from emerging markets such as India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mexico are more likely than more established UK visitor markets to say the London Games would motivate them to visit.
    
‘Number one city’
“London is already the number one city destination in the world and drives the UK economy. Whilst two-thirds of the benefits of the 2012 Games will remain within the capital, this research highlights the crucial role London plays as the gateway to Britain with almost one-third of the benefits of the Games to flow to the rest of the UK,” Bidwell concludes.
    
“Overall, London can offer something that no other destination on earth can compete with,” comments David Hornby, commercial director of Visit London. “We are already seeing a growing number of people coming to the capital to hold events of differing sizes; choosing London because of its dynamism, diversity and accessibility. The 2012 Games and the plethora of new hotels, attractions and venues - coupled with improvements in transport links into and around the capital - can only add to our offer, making London the ideal place for businesses and delegates to unlock their potential.”

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