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May 2, 2008

Midlands on the destination map

Birmingham is pulling out all the stops to significantly raise its profile as a global events destination, with two initiatives launched recently aimed at helping organisers and generating conference business from professional associations.

The move emphasises the importance of events to the city’s economy and it’s position as one of the leading destinations in the UK. In 2004, for example, Birmingham had more than a 30% share of the UK professional association business market, worth £1.2 billion (UK Market Conference Survey 2004, Meetings Industry Association). What’s more, Marketing Birmingham, the agency charged with promoting the city to a regional, national and international audience, “aims to increase the value of events in the city by 20% by 2008”.

It took its first step towards achieving this goal recently with the launch of the Event Support Package, or ESP, which it claims is the “highest quality support of its kind in the UK”. ESP is designed to attract national and international events to Birmingham by providing an insight into the city’s venues and culture.

As part of ESP, each meeting, conference, exhibition or event taking place in the city will be given the opportunity to appoint Marketing Birmingham to handle its hotel accommodation on a sole-agent basis. Once appointed, each event will be given a support level agreed with the organiser. This will be tailored to suit the number of delegates attending, with the highest level of support available for conferences with more than 750 attendees. This premium service will include e-campaigns using Marketing Birmingham’s databases, banner advertising and dedicated web pages; visual displays, city dressing, merchandising and branding, including exhibition stands and corporate gifts; and bespoke public relations activity, familiarisation visits and public speakers. The marketing activity will also be tailored to help attract more delegates to specific events.

All this will be in addition to the organisation’s Convention Bureau service, which already includes free venue finding, booking and social programme planning, as well as a conference registration service.

Commenting on ESP, Ian Taylor, commercial director at Marketing Birmingham, said: “We know what events need, even before the organisers tell us. That’s what ESP is designed for. Birmingham is an international meeting place for the MICE industry and the service that the city offers its business visitors has to compete and sell itself. Guaranteeing the delivery of a first-class event is not just about creating a conference, it’s about helping organisers tap into the city’s lifestyle from food and drink, music, arts and festivals to its creative industries, sports, shopping and fashion. ESP will support the positioning of Birmingham as a world-class city, high on the radar of international and national business visitors.”

As well as ESP, Marketing Birmingham has also recently launched the Conference Ambassador Programme to attract more events business from professional associations. The scheme will provide leading members of the academic, medical and professional communities with the tools to encourage key associations and institutions to host conferences in the city. These individuals will become Conference Ambassadors and be able to call on the services of the Birmingham Convention Bureau to provide bid documents, letters of support, venue finding, familiarisation visits, marketing support, an accommodation booking service, a conference registration service and social programmes.

Professor Michael Clarke, vice-principal of the University of Birmingham, said: “For over a century, University of Birmingham academics have been roving global ambassadors for this city. My colleagues and I are delighted that our skills and connections can now be harnessed through this imaginative scheme to ensure that in return, the world comes to Birmingham.”

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