Transporting delegates across the UK

CN looks at five smaller-sized meetings destinations and their transport and hotel offerings for meeting planners.


According to Harrogate International Centre’s Marketing and Communication’s Manager, Tracey Garrett: “Harrogate is actually in the middle of the UK, equidistant from Edinburgh and London and we repeatedly publicise this.

“We try to bust the myth that the town is difficult to get to by promoting how easy Harrogate is to get to using public transport and road. You can be in Harrogate from London on the train in just three hours and from Edinburgh in just over three hours. Train travel from Birmingham is 2.5 hours,” she says.

By road, HIC is reachable in two hours from Birmingham, three hours from London and 3.5 hours from Edinburgh. The main A1 motorway is seven miles from the centre.

In December, this year British Airways is due to launch four commuter flights from London Heathrow to Leeds Bradford International Airport, which will mean visitors from London can be at the HIC within two hours.

Harrogate has 1,600 bedrooms, 500 shops, bars and restaurants all within 15 minutes’ walk of the HIC. The town is compact and safe, meaning delegates can make the most of the out of hours networking opportunities with no worries about safety at any time of day or night.

“When organisers choose Harrogate they are bringing their event to the ‘Kensington of the North’,” says Garrett. “Large events can literally take over the town and Harrogate has been playing the gracious host for more than 200 years.


Torquay is located in the county of Devon and is 95 minutes from Exeter and the centre is only six miles from the M5, which links Torquay with the national motorway network.  

First Great Western, Conference Torquay and the Riviera International Conference Centre, have collaborated to offer conference rail fares exclusively to delegates travelling to conferences on the English Riviera.

“Offering discounted rail travel for conference delegates through First Great Western has provided us with a powerful marketing tool in overcoming any negative objections concerning distance to Torquay,” says Marketing Coordinator, Sarah James. “Conference Torquay was the first Conference Bureau in this region to secure such a deal, and its success has ensured that it has now been rolled out to other destinations across the South West.”

Fares are available three months prior to the conference and are from £49 return, from London to Torquay, and £99 for First Class.

“Securing discounted rail travel has provided a means to cheaper train fares which helps overcome rising transport costs all over the UK,” James adds.

James says while Torquay may struggle with a perception of remoteness, this is overcome by focusing on how easy it is to get to, the choice of accommodation, venues and facilities, and a relaxed environment.

“The hardest part of our job is getting a conference buyer to come and see the area, but we know once we get them here their business is, more often than not, secured.

“The majority are surprised how short and/or easy their journey was whether by car or train,” she adds.

“The Riviera International Conference Centre is located just off the seafront and is well situated among the main accommodation base, with 2,400 en-suite bed spaces within one mile. Walking to and from the RICC is easy and a popular option for delegates attending conferences.”


Located in the borough of Telford and Wrekin and county of Shropshire, Telford is 13 miles east of Shrewsbury and 30 miles west of Birmingham.
“Telford is closer than you think,” says Business Tourism Manager at Meet Telford and Shropshire, Sarah Bird. “It is located within three hours of 70 per cent of the UK population, two hours from London, one and a half hours from Manchester and less than 45 minutes from Birmingham.

“Hot off the press is the announcement of a new direct rail service from London to Telford and Shrewsbury announced by FirstGroup, the new operator of the Inter City West Coast rail franchise,” adds Bird. The new direct rail service is expected to be in place by 2014.

Telford attracts 2.5m business and leisure tourists per year, and has three international airports in close proximity: Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, making the destination accessible by air for both national and international delegates.

“Shropshire connects to the main intercity UK networks and there are regular trains from West Midlands to London,” says Bird. “London is a two and a half hour train journey from Telford and with the new direct rail service in 2014 it will be even closer.”

“Telford and Shropshire provide easy access for walkers. Whether you need to walk from the convention centre to transport links, retail, restaurant and leisure facilities, or you want to explore the destination, walking is easy and signposting, interpretation and maps are well provided for,” adds Bird.

Telford’s main convention complex, The International Centre, is within 10 minutes walk of the main train station.

Telford has 10,000 hotel rooms in the city, with 225 onsite at the Convention Centre, 880 near the centre and 2,500 within five miles.


Newcastle is the 16th most populous city in the UK and offers one of the most northern city locations in England. The visitor economy is worth around £1.26bn in NewcastleGateshead and the destination attracts 1.7m overnight visitors every year, of which 40 per cent attend conferences.

Despite its remote location, the city offers key access hubs to transport delegates from around the world to its conference venues and hotels.

“There is a perception that NewcastleGateshead is difficult to get to, that it’s not well connected and it takes several hours to get here,” says Senior Business Tourism Manager at NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau, Adrian Evans. “The truth is that from central London you can step out at Newcastle Central Station in less than three hours (the fastest train is 2hr 37min), and once here getting around couldn’t be easier.”

East Coast Trains operate half hourly services from London Kings Cross to Newcastle Central Station. In May 2011, it launched a more frequent service from London to Newcastle, alongside a renewed on-board service for first class passengers. The improvements have seen an additional 19 weekday services along the East Coast mainline, an additional 10,800 seats per day.

There are 32 services northbound from London Kings Cross to Newcastle Central Station every day, with 31 services on the return accommodating up to 17,620 passengers daily.

The city’s main airport is Newcastle International Airport, situated 10km from central NewcastleGateshead and it connects the city with 78 destinations. Delegates can travel from London Heathrow up to six times a day; London Gatwick up to four times per day; twice daily from Bristol; Cardiff three times per day; Aberdeen up to five times a day, and Belfast twice daily. For international routes organisers can tap into Amsterdam Schiphol, Dubai, Brussels and Paris.

Flights are around £45 one-way, London Heathrow – Newcastle International Airport (including taxes and fees) flying with British Airways.

NewcastleGateshead’s main attractions, venues, hotels, restaurants and bars are mostly situated within a 20-minute walk of the centre of town.

There are 6,215 rooms available in central NewcastleGateshead, with a total of 12,605 within 20km of the city centre.

The largest conference and exhibition venues are The Sage Gateshead, Newcastle and Northumbria Universities, Newcastle Civic Centre and St James’ Park. They are all situated within 15-minutes walk of the Central Station.

The Metro links NewcastleGateshead with the coast, neighbouring towns and the city of Sunderland. The frequent trains stop at stations throughout the city centre and easily link the suburbs of Jesmond and Gosforth.

“As the Convention Bureau, we recognise that we have to get out to our target audiences and bring NewcastleGateshead to them,” says Evans. “We have this year taken a more proactive approach and organised a programme of events to engage with organisers and buyers across the country. This includes a fam visit in November to demonstrate why more than 80 per cent of delegates wish to return as leisure visitors.”


“Located in the South West of England, Bath and the surrounding countryside couldn’t be easier to get to,” says Conference Sales and Marketing Executive for Bath Tourism Plus, Amy Barber. “Less than two hours from London, we have great road and rail links.”

Bristol Airport, which gives organisers access to 113 destinations worldwide and with a capacity of 6.5m passengers annually, is 20 miles from Bath and is the nearest airport to the city. North Somerset Council granted planning permission for the development and enhancement of Bristol Airport in February 2011, which will enable it to handle 10m passengers per annum.

Delegates can get a direct train from a number of UK destinations to Bath Spa station frequently.

There are regular train services direct from London Paddington and London Waterloo to Bath Spa, with an average journey time of around 90 minutes.

Bristol Temple Meads is 15 minutes away by train. It is a major hub for travel to all other parts of the country. A number of services to Bath Spa will change at Bristol Temple Meads including services from northern England, Scotland, Devon and Cornwall.

“If booked in advance, a single can cost £18 from London Paddington directly to Bath Spa,” highlights Barber.

In 2010, an estimated 3,750 business events were held at Bath venues with an estimated value of £24.4m. Also in 2010 there were 357,838 visitors to the city.

“Once in Bath there are a variety of transport options on offer, although as the city is compact and easy to get around the best way to explore is by foot. Horse and carriage is available as well city sightseeing buses and boat tours along the River Avon, or perhaps even a balloon ride with views overlooking the city,” says Barber. 

This was first published in the October edition of CN. Any comments? Email

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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