Change embraced and challenge accepted

Brighton’s
new head of tourism and venues, Howard Barden, reflects on his changing
career and looks forward to shaping the city’s MICE offering in future
.
 
If
there’s one thing I’ve learnt in more than 25 years in the conference
and events business, it’s the importance of embracing change and being
flexible. Since moving to the Brighton Centre in 1994, I’ve had the
pleasure of working in the heart of this vibrant city and, with a
diverse range of clients that a large capacity venue attracts. From
Robin Cousins and his skating compadres to Jessie J and latterly Ed
Miliband and the Labour Party Conference, the centre really does have an
eclectic clientele and this is something that brings home the
versatility of the space and the need to provide a slick service
whatever the event theme.
 
Working as a key member of the
Brighton Centre team and driven by a passion and energy for conferences
and events, I progressed to the position of Operations Manager, then
onto Commercial Director and to General Manager for the Centre in 2011.
As GM, I was responsible for overseeing all aspects of the venue and got
the opportunity to focus on embracing change in the commercial sense –
raising our standards, the quality of our service and facilities, and
constantly striving to deliver excellence to all our conference clients
and their delegates.
 
A huge part of this mission has been
managing the £1m renovation project which has transformed the Brighton
Centre into a modern conference facility for the city. Improved and
extended spaces within the building, new furniture, signage, av
equipment and fittings throughout the venue plus a technology investment
which allows us to offer delegates fast and free Wi-Fi access across
the building, have all combined to rejuvenate the venue. As a result,
the Brighton Centre is in a great place. We’ve seen a significant growth
in conference business and were proud to host the Labour Party’s Annual
Conference 2013 and we are looking forward to welcoming them back in
2015.
 
Looking ahead, my new role as Head of Tourism & Venues
at Brighton & Hove City Council will involve me working on behalf
of the whole city, promoting all our venues and developing strategies to
increase Brighton’s share of the business tourism market.  My role
includes responsibility for VisitBrighton, the city’s official tourism
destination unit and the convention bureau.  Both the leisure and
business strands of VisitBrighton have already built strong partnerships
with local businesses and work on their behalf to promote them to
potential clients.  I see collaborative working as a great force for
good and something which ultimately brings benefit to the local economy
overall.
 
Over the past 12 months we’ve seen significant
investment in some of our flagship venues, including the Grand Hotel,
which has pumped over £2 million into improving its offering of high-end
conference spaces and bedrooms, not to mention the addition of a luxury
spa and top notch seafood restaurant. This kind of investment shows
commitment and brings confidence to the city.  We’ve seen a real
snowball effect, particularly along the seafront, where other venues are
following suit and either starting or announcing their own
refurbishment projects.
 
The city itself has changed rapidly in
recent years and will no doubt continue to evolve with new hotels on the
horizon, fresh attractions and facilities planned and better transport
links for the conference industry to support the venue improvements that
have been made.
 
As a destination, the city of Brighton &
Hove has so much going for it that it’s an easy sell for me and I’m
looking forward to the changes and the challenges that my role at the
helm of tourism and venues will bring. Change embraced and challenge
accepted!

Any comments? Email zvernor@mashmedia.net

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Conference News hosts great guests on its pages. Our Blog section is the collection of the best opinions in the UK and international events industry.

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Conference News hosts great guests on its pages. Our Blog section is the collection of the best opinions in the UK and international events industry.

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