MICE trends in 2014

With a spate of world-class tournaments on the horizon, a flood of unique venues opening their doors to the corporate market and a wave of events spaces taking delegates back to nature, I predict that sport, unusual venues and conferences in trees will all influence the meetings industry in 2014.

Sport

Following last year’s Olympic success, 2014 sees a number of sports tournaments to consider when planning corporate hospitality and incentives. The Tour de France returns to the UK in July for three stages. The Yorkshire Grand Depart comprises two stages, Leeds to Harrogate and York to Sheffield, before the Tour moves south for a third stage from Cambridge to London.

In the same month, the Royal Liverpool Golf Club will host The Open Championship. And let’s not forget the regulars including Wimbledon, Royal Ascot and Henley Royal Regatta in its 175th year.
It’s not just major events on the horizon; 2014 sees a spate of venue developments, too. The Lee Valley VeloPark opens in March, allowing access to its four cycling disciplines, track, BMX, road and mountain biking, and offering a teambuilding opportunity.

The Belfry, host to more Ryder Cup matches than any other venue in the world, will complete £26m worth of resort enhancements; the works will see improvements to its 318 bedrooms and 22 conference and meeting rooms.

Finally, Hotel Football opens on the doorstep of Old Trafford next year. The concept by GG Hospitality (Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs) is designed to be a venue using references to football throughout, with a rooftop pitch and banqueting facilities.

Back to nature

More than ever organisers are looking for venues that take delegates outside of the boardroom to stimulate creative thinking. This year saw corporates brainstorming alongside a troop of baboons in the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, tipis on Brighton beach and Bear Grylls’ survival academy offering teambuilding.

The nature theme is set to continue next year with London’s newest skyscraper, 20 Fenchurch Street, opening the Sky Garden. This ‘upside down garden in the sky’ concept will span three floors, host up to 540 guests, and house a Champagne bar, brasserie and seafood bar and grill.
Also opening next year is The Blackburn Wing at Bowcliffe Hall in Leeds; the treehouse-inspired hangar will offer views through its floor to ceiling windows. It will offer seating for up to 80 theatre-style and 140 for drinks receptions. And Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery will reopen with an extension further into the park, housing a first floor ‘café in the trees’ and a learning studio that will open on to the art garden.

Unique venues

This year has seen even religious buildings diversify by opening their doors to corporates: St Mary’s church in Nottingham underwent a refurbishment and is now available for event hire. Carlton Towers stately home in Yorkshire launched Downton Dinners allowing corporates to dine in the style of Downton Abbey, while Leeds Castle in Kent launched Knights Glamping in its grounds for away days with a difference.

To celebrate its centenary, Sheffield Cathedral is embarking on a renovation project, which will see the city’s only medieval building transformed for events, catering for up to 400. Continuing with the religious theme, Manchester’s Albert Hall, a chapel which dates back to 1910, will be transformed into a live music and conference venue. And former convent, Stanbrook Abbey in Worcestershire, which has been transformed into a conference venue, will see a further 50 bedrooms and additional event space added in summer next year.

Hyper-local

A recent survey by VisitEngland illustrates just what a foodie nation we have become: research reveals that 76 per cent of us want to dine at restaurants serving local dishes.

Locally-sourced food is becoming increasingly popular in the corporate world too, and it ticks the CSR box. There are plenty of new openings on the hyper-local scene next year, many of which fall into the gastronomic hotels category, which is handy for organisers looking for accommodation.
The Pig, currently consisting of two ‘restaurants with rooms’ in the New Forest and Southampton, will expand with new properties in Bath (February 2014) and Studland, Dorset (May 2014), both of which will offer the ‘25-mile menu’.

Heckfield Place in Hampshire has been reunited with its 330-acre farm, which means its restaurant, overseen by Skye Gyngell of Petersham Nurseries fame, will be stocked with hyperlocal produce when it opens in spring next year.

And drink connoisseurs will be pleased to know that a distillery will open in Cumbria next year. The Lakes Distillery, housed in a secluded former Victorian model farm in the Lake District, will produce the first ever British blended Cumbrian malt whisky soon.

Budget accommodation newcomers: Poshtels and space-age hubs

Delegates sleeping in hostels? ‘Poshtels’ are new on the accommodation scene and offer the business traveller wallet-friendly accommodation in surprisingly comfortable surroundings.

The YHA has spent over £10m on refurbishments, creating not just private rooms with ensuite bathrooms, but bridal suites with roll-top baths, four-poster beds and even onsite art galleries. YHA York now boasts a six-foot art installation and also has private meeting rooms available for hire.

Elsewhere on the poshtel scene, Hoax is a new luxury hostel brand, which launched in Liverpool in July. Hoax is a great choice for meetings and events on a budget: Hatch, the live music space on-site, comes complete with an art exhibition and bar all available for private hire for up to 250. Hopskotch, the hostel’s street kitchen and bar, offers a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of natural daylight for meetings over lunch.

The new Safestay Hostel in London’s Elephant & Castle is situated in an 18th Century Georgian building, formerly the Labour Party Headquarters. Safestay, one of a series to open across London over the next three years, features private rooms, heated garden terrace, library and bar to unwind in.

Space-age hubs

Other 2014 budget accommodation contenders are Qbic and Hub by Premier Inn which both offer design over space. Qbic is a new kind of hotel which offers a futuristic take on the budget hotel; designed in tune with their location, rooms are basic, consisting of the ‘cubi’ – a bed, bathroom, toilet and TV which come as a modular unit. There’s also a power shower, free Wi-Fi, space to conduct business meetings in the lounge, and food is sourced from a local organisation which also provides food for the needy and homeless. Qbic London City opens soon with rooms starting at £59, the brand plans to roll out nationally over the next few years.

Also on the budget scene and new for next year is the Hub by Premier Inn. The Hub is tipped to be the most space efficient hotel and will be the country’s first hotel where the rooms can be remote controlled using a smart phone app. Guests will be able to check in online and control the room’s lighting and temperature as well as what is on the radio/TV when they arrive. The Hub St Martins Lane will open in summer next year with other major city centre locations to follow.

Hot on the heels of this year’s opening of the Birmingham Library, 2014 will see Manchester Central Library open as the city’s ‘living room’, a unique space that will house performance, exhibition spaces, a media lounge, BFI Mediatheque and Henry Watson Music Library.

Also in Manchester, the Whitworth Art Gallery will reopen following a £15m investment that has funded two new wings, connecting the building to its surrounding parkland. Outdoor art also continues to go from strength to strength, with Hauser & Wirth Somerset opening at Durslade Farm, on the edge of the ancient town of Bruton, in summer next year. The onsite restaurant will cater for small events.

Access

The £5m project to revamp Brighton’s main rail station was unveiled this month. Improvements to the station include a remodelled concourse providing more space with twice as many automatic ticket gates, a new travel centre and ticket office, a new passenger lounge and café and a wider selection of retail units. From March next year there will also be a new cycle hub.

Heathrow Airport will open its new Terminal 2 in June, a £2.5bn facility that will eventually serve 20m passengers each year, known as ‘Terminal 2: the Queen’s Terminal’ in recognition of Queen Elizabeth II.

Birmingham’s runway extension is set for completion in the spring of 2014.

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

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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