Brighton and Hove is already claiming a pre-Olympic dividend as organisers desert London for the south coast, with forward bookings at the destination’s venues worth £58m to the economy.
Figures from VisitBrighton, the council’s tourism arm, reveal that it handled 122 conference enquiries in 2011, a 13 per cent increase on the year before.
Thirty-nine bookings have been confirmed over the next few years, with 28 major conferences or major events booked for 2012, expected to attract 30,000 delegates.
Most of the bigger conferences will be at the Brighton Centre, including, in September, the Liberal Democrats’ party conference 2012, which is expected to attract 8,000 and bring in £15m, and the TUC Annual Congress set to attract 2,000 delegates.
A Unison Health Conference in April should attract 1,500 people.
The VisitBrighton team has recently hosted groups of French and German conference organisers in the city and the town’s Argus newspaper reported Cabinet Councillor in charge of tourism, Geoffrey Bowden, claiming: “The figures are a tribute to the proactive approach taken by the VisitBrighton team in marketing our city and emphasises the importance of the conference business for the local economy.
“The level of interest from conference organisers is extremely high and I expect the VisitBrighton team will be in a position soon to make announcements about major events coming to our city.”
Conference organiser Sam Harrington-Lowe, boss at Pretty Clever Events in Church Road, Hove, also told the Argus the conference market was growing.
“The city seems to have had a surge in popularity this year with companies moving their annual events out of London to avoid the Olympics. “But we are also fielding enquiries from overseas groups who are drawn to the seaside as a direct result of the games. The conference business seems to be very much alive and kicking.”
Visit Brighton’s Convention Bureau Manager, Julia Gallagher, told CN: “Anecdotally, organisers report a 15 per cent increase in delegate numbers when they chose to hold their conference in Brighton.”
A succession of new event spaces and venues have opened in Brighton in recent months or are set to open in 2012.
The Hilton Brighton Metropole has now completed its bedroom refurbishment, resulting in 140 renovated rooms encompassing the whole front section of the hotel. The hotel will also expand its events spaces with the creation of the Park Suites and an additional three syndicate spaces, allowing events to beheld in a separate, self contained area. The total spent on renovation was £4m in 2011 alone. And the Grand Brighton has completed a £300,000 refurbishment of its largest events space, the Empress Suite, which can cater up to 800 delegates.
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