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April 16, 2008

DESTINATIONS:Home comforts

The sense of excitement is nearly reaching fever pitch as I cram the last of my belongings into a bulging suitcase in preparation for a number of journeys I’m going to be making over the next few months.

I’m embarking on a tour in which I’ll be travelling up and down the country visiting various destinations in an effort to gauge the state of the UK events industry in 2007.

From Glasgow and Edinburgh in the north to Cardiff in the west and London in the south, taking in the midlands and the north, I’ll be visiting 10 destinations, having a look around and talking to events professionals on the ground to find out how they assess what’s going on in the industry and the efforts they are making to increase their share of the events pie.

Postcards from the edge

After each visit we will publish a sort of ‘postcard’ in which I will give my unashamed impressions of where I’ve been and what I thought.

It’s always dangerous to set off with preconceived ideas so, as far as possible, I’m not going to form any opinions until I’ve seen it for myself. Having said that, it is important to have a good idea of what I’m looking out for and the kind of thing that would make me pleased or annoyed about the destinations I go to.

Top of my list is the enthusiasm of the people. Although there are numerous things that can affect the successful running of a given event I firmly believe that if you have passionate people who are willing to go the extra mile you have a good chance of running something special.

To this has to be added good quality venues that these people can work in. The UK has venues to burn but all too often, especially as a journalist, one hears negative stories about how clients are treated.

Community spirit

I’m also going to be looking out for examples of where the business of hosting events is something that is embraced by the whole community. There are some good examples of this up and down the country, towns and cities where the local authority has come to understand the value of events to the local economy and which, as a result, is a keen partner in the marketing and selling process. To this can be added other stakeholders such as hoteliers, venue bosses, restaurateurs and taxi drivers, all of whom have a vital role to play in ensuring that delegates, visitors, guests, whatever we call our customers, go away from a place feeling that they’ve had an enjoyable and profitable time.

One of the big issues, and one that I’ve spent years thinking about, is location. Look at most surveys and you will find that location is usually one of the most, if not the most, important factor governing the choice of an events venue and destination. There are so many myths surrounding this subject. London is by some way the most popular destination in the UK for events and in many ways it is an obvious choice. There is no doubt that the capital offers an extraordinarily wide range of events venues, hotels and other infrastructure and that this embarrassment of choice is highly attractive to events organisers.

Capital gains?

But, is London really the only option open to event organisers? Surely there are plenty of other UK destinations which, although not offering as many possibilities, still have plenty with which to attract the high profile clients? After all, who wouldn’t prefer an easy drive or train ride to a regional destination rather than the nightmare of the M25 and most of London’s roads? Or is that another myth?

Anyway, my sandwiches are wrapped in cling film and I’ve got a supply of baked bean curry in sealed containers so it looks like I’m about ready to go. First stop is Nottingham where I visited a few years ago and wasn’t terribly impressed.

As I say, no preconceptions, I’m looking forward to seeing what I find next week.

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye!

Look out for John Spain's destination reviews over the coming weeks

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