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January 27, 2009

Survey gives hope to North East England events industry

Hotels, businesses and attractions in NewcastleGateshead have provided a welcome boost, after results from a new survey by NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau were released.
Almost 90% of hotels and venues that took part in the survey described conference business in 2008 as either better or the same as 2007.
The survey was undertaken by NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau – the specialist business tourism arm of the destination marketing agency NewcastleGateshead Initiative. It involved a broad range of more than 20 hotels, venues, businesses and attractions in NewcastleGateshead and across the wider region, including The Sage Gateshead, Northumbria University, Durham County Cricket Club, Macdonald Linden Hall Golf & Country Club, greystreethotel and Newcastle United Conference & Banqueting.
Success stories
Despite the emergence of a tougher economic climate throughout last year, several businesses recorded significant achievements in 2008. The Sage Gateshead highlighted hosting the Conservative Party Spring Forum in March as a major achievement, with over 1,000 delegates attending and an economic impact for the twin cities and wider region of roughly £1 million.

Meanwhile, Benchmark Conference and Event Management facilitated a major international conference – The World Muscle Society – which attracted 550 delegates to the region from all over the world and brought an estimated £900,000 to the destination.

Furthermore, Northumbria University hosted four major conferences at their new City Campus East site, and Damon Roberts, general manager of Thistle Newcastle and Chair of the North East Hoteliers Association, saw a 15% rise in conference business at his hotel last year compared with the year before.
Positive, but cautious
“This survey indicates it isn’t all doom and gloom,” said Jessica Roberts, head of business tourism at NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau. “There are plenty of positive stories coming out of this region and many of our members have highlighted positive experiences last year, which will have boosted their venue, but also boosted the region as a whole, from the economic impact that major conferences deliver.”
The survey also focused on this year, and revealed that 32% of businesses that took part were “positive” about 2009, but that the same amount expressed “caution”, saying that they would need to prepare well for the challenging economic climate ahead.
Looking abroad

Emma Cartmell, managing director of The Whyman Group, which manages events and oversaw two high-profile international association events last year, the Europa Nostra conference and the International Biochar Conference, was looking at options to expand her business overseas.
“Business hasn’t dried up in the UK or North East by any means,” she said, “but looking ahead we can still see potential in other markets and other countries.
“We have an excellent staff boasting heaps of expertise and there will be businesses in other locations, in the UK and overseas, that will instantly recognise the value and support we offer. We want to be more in control of our own destiny and part of that involves finding new customers in new places.”
The International Biochar Conference at the end of last year attracted 250 delegates from across the world to NewcastleGateshead, having a vital economic impact on the region. Professor David Manning at Newcastle University, who helped organise the event, said: “Everyone was pleased that we were all able to be in one compact place for everything. The only complaint was that delegates didn’t have enough free time to explore the area so a number of them extended their visit to allow them to see more of the twin cities and wider region.”

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