Leeds connects with the world

The future is looking bright for tourism in the Yorkshire city of Leeds. British Airways is to start four daily flights from Leeds Bradford City Airport to London Heathrow offering new opportunities to connect with British Airways’ extensive global network from Heathrow. The flights are timed to offer onward connections linking the city with key worldwide destinations including Hong Kong, New York, Johannesburg and Sydney.

Starting on 9 December 2012, the flights will also allow passengers to check in their bags and receive boarding cards for their entire journey at Leeds Bradford City Airport.

“This important new service to Heathrow connects Yorkshire with the world. It provides our businesses with the access they need to emerging and established global markets, and enables those markets to easily come to Yorkshire, bringing their investment and inbound tourism direct into our region,” said Leeds Bradford City Airport’s Chief Executive, John Parkin.

Increased connectivity means increased business for the city, and in turn more events. Conference Leeds’ Manager Nicola Lockwood told CN: “The development of major transport links is great news for the city and is sure to deliver an increased number of national and international conferences and events going forward.”

Monarch Airlines has also made Leeds Bradford its sixth UK base and has 12 new scheduled routes for summer 2013. The flights are to key destinations across the Mediterranean, including Turkey, Italy, Cyprus, Palma and Portugal.

Scottish airline Loganair has also guaranteed the future of a vital link between Scotland and Yorkshire. The Flybe franchise carrier has launched services between Glasgow and Leeds with two flights each weekday as well as a Sunday evening service in each direction.

Investment

A large amount of investment is being pumped into Leeds, with two major developments culminating in 2013. The £60m Leeds Arena is due for completion in spring 2013. It has a total capacity of 13,500 with 24 executive boxes, flexible accommodation for music, concerts and shows, and spaces to cater for smaller groups of around 1,500 delegates. The second major development in Leeds is the £590m Trinity Quarter shopping complex also due to open in spring next year. The new development will include 120 new shops and restaurants. Statistics show that in 2013 the catchment’s 5.5m consumers will offer a £1.93bn spend and over 110,000 office workers within a five minute walk will deliver a steady flow of consumers to the shopping centre.

“Leeds is fortunate to be seeing some exciting new developments come to fruition, which are guaranteed to attract new markets in 2014 and beyond,” said Lockwood.

These developments include plans for a multi-million pound Ramada Encore Hotel in the city centre. The Quay City Development scheme, which is located opposite the Civic Hall and Rose Bowl, will add 200 rooms to the city’s hotel stock and development is set to start in the third quarter of 2012.

Leeds’ Malmaison Hotel has also seen developments. The boutique property has increased its meetings and events space to accommodate parties of up to 80 delegates theatre-style or 60 for a sit down dinner.

The Park Plaza has completed its refurbishment. Yorkshire’s tallest building has redesigned all of its 185 guest rooms and built two new rooms.

The new Premier Inn Leeds City Centre North opened in April 2012 after a multi-million pound refurbishment of the former 10-storey office block building, transforming it into a 131 en-suite bedroom hotel and restaurant.

Challenges and wins

Like many other UK cities, Leeds hasn’t been immune to the recession. “Times are challenging for venues and hotels in Leeds, particularly with the loss of public sector events,” said Lockwood. “But things remain positive,” she added. “Association business is holding its own and there is a constant stream of conference business secured right into 2014.”

Recent event wins include the Annual Scientific Meeting of Paediatric Anaesthetists of GB and Ireland for 450 delegates for two nights in May 2014 and the Creative Crafts Show on October this year, which will attract over 8,000 visitors to Saviles Hall at Royal Armouries International. The event, organised by Trident Exhibitions, has been running for over 20 years in venues across the UK, but  will make its debut in Leeds this year.

The recent Conference and Hospitality Show, for meeting planners, moved from Saviles Hall to Leeds United Football Club this year and has doubled in size since its inception. It attracted more pre-registered visitors than ever before this year. The show attracted 100 exhibitors, 400 meeting and event planners including high profile agencies such as Universal World Events, W & O Events, Expotel and Travel Leads and 100 VIP buyers.

Leeds also struck some Olympic gold when China sent its athletes to the city for its training base. Hao Qiang, Secretary General of the Chinese Olympic Committee said being in Leeds was like a “homecoming”. In preparation for hosting the Olympians, the University of Leeds sent its chefs to Beijing to learn about cooking Chinese food.

Partnerships

Three Leeds venues that have recently achieved a Gold Accredited in Meetings (AIM) accolade by the Meetings Industry Association (MIA) have joined together to promote the benefits of holding events in Gold level accredited venues. Gold level venues have proven they are legally compliant, assessed their facilities and achieved a minimum score against the criteria of 60 per cent. They also comply with the Meetings CODE and have completed a stringent on site assessment of their customer service levels.

Weetwood Hall Hotel & Conference Centre, Royal Armouries International (RAI) and Well Met Conferencing are working together to attract conference business. Kate Davis, Business Development Manager for Well Met Conferencing, said: “Our new joint partnership with Weetwood Hall and RAI aims to reinforce the message that a Gold accredited status highlights commitment to providing excellent customer service in venues that stand out from the crowd. At Well Met we are dedicated to pulling out all the stops for our clients to ensure that they have an event to remember.”

Peter Chubb, General Manager of Weetwood Hall Conference Centre and the first venue in Leeds to be awarded AIM Gold, commented: “I’m proud that the city has three AIM Gold venues.

We’re the only destination outside of our nation’s capital that has achieved this, positioning Leeds as a great destination for business tourism.” 

This was first published in the September edition of CN. Any comments? Email conferencenews@mashmedia.net

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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