Self-confident. “We have fantastic venues, can offer wonderful hospitality and have excellent transport links,” stressed Helen Judge in her keynote speech on the opening evening of the second MeetGB on 10 April 2019. Judge is the Director General for performance and strategy at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and does everything she can to promote the UK abroad. MeetGB pulled out all the stops to fill the 90 hosted buyers from 17 countries with enthusiasm.
“Let’s do business, let’s make friends. With 5,600 personal appointments, MeetGB offers the ideal opportunity to get to know the quality of the 85 providers,” said Kerrin MacPhie, Head of Business events at VisitBritain, who explained all about the Events Are Great campaign. The key sectors named by the Department for International Trade and the locations identified by Visit England and the equivalent bodies for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland indicate where planners can find the “great” in Great Britain.
“Meet GB is very focused. The hosted buyers selected appointments from a list and were ultimately given around 40 scheduled meetings with the providers,” explained Michael Hirst, Chair of the Event Industry Board of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The second MeetGB dispensed with an education programme, but buyers were able to go on one of nine three-day study trips beforehand.
The “B” word received no exposure at all on these spring days at the De Vere Beaumont Estate in idyllic Windsor. A week after the World Association Congress in Gothenburg, Kerrin MacPhie was experiencing a lot of demand from international associations. Barbara Jamison, Head of Business Development in Europe at the convention bureau London & Partners, is delighted about the return of the European Society of Cardiology Congress (ESC) in 2021 and the recent booking received for the International Liver Congress. London boasts numerous strong sectors, five airports and a direct train link to Paris, the Eurostar.
“The accessibility of our fantastic destination for business events is guaranteed,” said VisitBritain CEO Sally Balcombe at the MeetGB gala evening at Hampton Court Palace, which dates back to the reign of Henry VIII. The Great Hall, with a ceiling height of 18 metres, made a fine setting for the dinner.
The “royal history” theme of MeetGB 2019 is one that planners gladly make use of for their events. “Our historic palaces are well booked. However, we are seeing some hesitation from German decision-makers. They respond very sensitively,” observed Ann Wilson of the events department of Historic Royal Palaces. The fascination felt for the royal family is very tangible in Windsor. The Queen spends a lot of time at the castle. “We are coming to London for an incentive with 250 staff in June 2019. Everyone is really looking forward to it,” reported the event manager of an Austrian bank.
Numerous destinations in England benefit from the appeal of historic sites. “Exeter Cathedral is a real jewel in our portfolio. Planners accept that it costs around 3,000 euros to turn the key and gain admission. Our partner companies take care of furnishings and catering,” said Sally Everton, who hosted a pre-tour.
Grantley Hall in North Yorkshire, under an hour from Leeds, is a historic mansion that has just opened as a Relais & Chateaux hotel. The Garden Pavilion seats 180 guests. Set in parkland with beautiful gardens and a spa, the hotel is aimed at the higher end of the incentives market.
The historic spa city of Bath can be packaged with nearby Bristol in the south west of the country. A section on incentives is about to be added to Bristol’s website. “Our street art festival is attracting a lot of interest. We offer very good prices for trains from London and are setting up an ambassador scheme to promote our sector strengths in high-tech, clean tech, engineering and aerospace,” explained Convention Bureau Manager Amy Bramhall.
MeetGB 2019 included a strong focus on Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as destinations. The ICC Wales is opening this year, marking the country’s debut on the international meetings stage. The convention centre built in the grounds of the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport boasts Europe’s largest pillar-free ballroom and an auditorium for 1,500. The UK Space Conference is coming in September 2019. “The ICC Wales is a catalyst for the whole region. We are setting up an ambassador programme for Wales to attract conventions in eight sectors including the life sciences and cancer treatment,” said Heledd Williams, Head of Business Events at Visit Wales. By the end of 2019, there will be 1,200 hotel rooms in the vicinity of the ICC.
In Scotland, Aberdeen’s TECA event complex is opening this year. What used to be the ACC has undergone a complete renovation, been expanded and given a new brand identity. New flights to Aberdeen are planned, with Lufthansa among the airlines involved. The Innovate the Nation campaign, ICCA Marketing Award winner in 2018, accentuates Scotland’s forward-looking attitude.
TEDxGlasgow is taking place at the SEC Armadillo in June 2019 with a theme of “Connection”, while Edinburgh is hosting the TedSummit in July, the motto of which is “A Community Beyond Borders”. Since the opening of the new Victoria & Albert Museum, which gets all its exhibitions from its parent museum in London, Dundee’s international reputation has grown significantly.
Northern Ireland has benefited from the television series Game of Thrones. Linnen Mill Studios will be opening as an event venue in 2020. The region boasts ICC Belfast, the Titanic Museum and fantastic golf courses. The 148th Open will be held at Royal Portrush in July. The royal palace of Hillsborough Castle has recently been renovated.