Harrogate International Centre’s (HIC) new management team has been meeting local businesses in a drive to win back business after many months of uncertainty without a permanent director at the venue and several rounds of redundancies. The HIC management said it now intended actively “getting out” its message to the local business community and asked for its support for the centre.
Simon Kent was confirmed as permanent Director last month having filled the role on an interim basis since the former Director Angus Houston quit in June 2012. Kent told local business owners at a breakfast event, 30 May, that he wanted to share ideas with local businesses and said: “We have been too complacent in the past about winning new customers and taking on the competition”.
There was no magic formula, Kent warned, and said the way to succeed was by “battling hard to win new business – this must be our primary objective, as well as making sure our existing customers are happy so they come again”.
Kent told the 60 local business partners present at the breakfast to put the past behind them and work together to guarantee the centre’s future.
“Exhibitions, conferences and corporate events staged at HIC attract people from outside Harrogate and these people spend significant sums of money during their stay in hotels, restaurants, buying gifts and travelling,” said Kent.
HIC is operated by Harrogate Borough Council as an arm’s length organisation and Council Chief Executive, Wallace Sampson, added: “Having a successful HIC isn’t just about the board, it’s about the whole district, and events like today demonstrate our desire for a partnership approach.”
The HIC plans a series of events designed to build up links between the venue and the district’s business community.
Kent also noted £250,000 had been earmarked for refurbishing the HIC’s older halls, part of a 10-year investment plan for the site.
Conference exhibitors and delegates bring in £50m a year to Harrogate’s hospitality and retail industries, although Kent admitted the recession had taken its toll on the conference industry. A new strategy was required, he said, and warned that the venue faced increasing competition from other major UK conference locations such as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.
“Our job is to see HIC not as it is, but what it can be,” Kent added.
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