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July 17, 2006
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Metropolis: Which UK cities give event organisers the most help?




A few weeks ago, EVENTS:review ran an article on Birmingham’s latest initiatives for helping and encouraging companies to hold events in the ‘capital of the Midlands’ (apologies Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, Derby, etc). The feature had been prompted by the proactivity of Birmingham’s marketing machine and we wondered why we had not heard from other UK cities. So we decided to contact them ourselves to compare and contrast what other major cities across the UK – London, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen – can offer. Not only was it designed to assess each city, but also to gauge the efficiency of each city’s marketing team. Sadly Glasgow and Edinburgh fell at the first hurdle and failed to respond, which doesn’t give much hope to companies planning to hold an event in either city – but perhaps we will give them a right to reply and do a Scotland Focus later in the year. So here’s the tale of the four cities that got their acts together in time…

Manchester excelled itself, with not only replying promptly, but also invading EVENTS:review’s letterbox with well-produced printed information on the city. It has a lot to shout about, too, as it has shot up the ICCA World Rankings from being outside the top 100 most successful conference destinations in 2003 to a creditable 49th this year. Marketing Manchester drives the initiative to attract more conference customers, offering a free venue location service, which it claims can turn enquiries round in 24 hours and is wholly independent. There is also an Accommodation Booking team to help companies find the best place to stay, while the North West Conference Bidding Unit offers assistance with bid documents, familiarisation visits, promotional materials, advice on civic funding and help with appointing a professional conference organiser.

Dubbed ‘The Knightsbridge of the North’ in the Lonely Planet Guide to Britain, Leeds stakes its claim to being one of the most important financial sectors outside London, with over 30 banks located in the city. Contact the Conference Bureau – Leeds, and you can take advantage of a free venue finding and booking service. The office will contact local conference venues and meeting facilities on your behalf, getting rates and availability, and prepare a proposal enabling you to compare venues. It also claims to be able to locate suitable hotel accommodation, conference venues and meeting facilities within an hour! And it must be doing something right as Bollywood’s equivalent of the Oscars has pledged to hold its 2007 event in Leeds and the surrounding Yorkshire region.

The inclusion of Aberdeen in the list may well be a surprise, but its PR machine in second to none when it comes to telling the media what it has to offer. Business Tourism Manager of the Aberdeen Convention Bureau Jacky Selway has even contributed to a number of EVENTS:review articles. The city claims to successfully blend the modern and traditional through a wide range of venues from the old-style Music Hall to the hi-tech Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre. It also provides organisers with a full range of services. “These include pre-marketing to help promote an event to make sure organisers are reaching the correct target audience,” explains Selway. The Convention Bureau also offers a new initiative – special breaks packages tailored to those attending conferences, providing the opportunity for business tourists visiting Aberdeen to explore the surrounding areas and further afield if required.

London is clearly the major UK events destination and the facilities it offers companies are comprehensive. As well as a free impartial venue finding service, Visit London offers a free planning tool kit, including a business guide outlining what the capital has to offer as a meeting, incentive, conference and event destination, as well as a directory of suppliers, among other useful items. There’s also a business tourism website at visitlondon.com/business with details of venues, attractions, event services and special offers. Visit London also hosts regular familarisation visits, so companies can get to know the capital better, together with help with bid preparations and a social itineraries guide to what delegates can do with their free time. And this is on top of access to the broadest range of venues and accommodation in the UK, not to mention London’s unrivalled communications facilities. “London is one of the world’s best connected cities, with 160 daily direct international flights from across the world, and five international airports serving 273 overseas destinations,” explains Visit London commercial director David Hornby. “London is easy to reach from all over the UK, with hundreds of internal flights from the UK’s main regions arriving in London each day.”

So there you have it. Will it be Aberdeen’s mix of traditional charm and modern conference facilities, plus the chance to experience famous Scottish hospitality on a short delegate break, or Manchester’s vibrant art culture and its exciting rejuvenation since it hosted the Commonwealth Games? Or perhaps you’ll go for Leeds’ renaissance as a retail and finance centre, or plump for London, certainly one of the most exciting and cosmopolitan cities in the world, if the crowds and expense aren’t an issue. The choice is yours, but you can be safe in the knowledge that each city offers the help you need to make your conference a success.

…And you can click here to track down our recent Birmingham feature.

For more information on holding an event in the cities mentioned above visit:
Visit London
Conference Leeds
Abeerdeen Conferences
Manchester Conferences


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