City update: Leeds looks ahead

Situated in West Yorkshire, Leeds is centrally located at the heart of the UK and welcomes 23m visitors annually. Leeds is anticipating an exciting summer with the city due to stage the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in July.

 “I am proud and excited that Leeds has been given the honour of starting this amazing and legendary race,” says Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council. “The Grand Depart is going to be a real celebration for everyone in the city and our guests from all over the globe to enjoy, highlighting the best that Leeds and Yorkshire has to offer.”

Following on from this, Leeds will host Teach First’s annual conference from 19 July to 2 August; a bid win achieved thanks to a collaboration between Leeds Metropolitan University, which has one of the largest event management courses in the country,  and the University of Leeds.

Leeds’ two largest universities worked together for the first time to secure the University-based element of Teach First’s Summer Institute, which has taken place at the University of Warwick in previous years.

The annual residential training event has been secured for 2014 and 2015 and is expected to be worth £5.5m to the city and will attract 3,000 delegates.

Teams from Well Met Conferencing at Leeds Metropolitan University and MEETINLEEDS at the University of Leeds spent months in talks with Teach First’s congress consultants, vfi 360, who explored over 45 cities on behalf of Teach First. Leeds won the bid based on its scope for development and ease of access.

Partners First Direct Arena and accommodation providers Unite, Downing and Grey Star, will provide additional bedrooms for delegates’ 28,000 bed nights.

“We are proud of this collaborative project and to have secured an event of such high profile and stature,” says Vice Chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University, Professor Susan Price. “It is not only great for Leeds, which can now prove that it has the capability and the muscle to host congress business of this kind, it also demonstrates that when we combine forces, Leeds Metropolitan University and the University of Leeds is a formidable partnership.”

Lurene Joseph, Chief Executive at Leeds and Partners, adds: “Teach First’s decision to come to Leeds is great news for the universities and the wider Leeds economy. More than 3,000 people visiting the city will be a tremendous boost to our retail, cultural and food and drink sectors.

“We are delighted to be working with the universities  to drive added value in the tourism marketplace. This will be supported by forging further links with VisitEngland and VisitBritain to bring forward key campaigns to position Leeds as one of the top UK conference destinations,” she says.

Classed as a metropolitan city with a real buzz, according to Lex Butler, Creative Services Director at Zibrant, Leeds has a mixture of history and culture. “It has been regenerated over the last 10 years and offers shopping with independent and boutique retailers alongside high street favourites, Michelin starred dining and evenings out that rival Manchester, Liverpool and even London,” she says.

Butler adds that the city centre is all within walking distance and the city is competitively priced compared to some of the bigger cities in the UK, offering those with budget constraints affordable venues.

Leeds venue update

The Radisson Blu Hotel has invested more than £200,000 to enhance its meetings and event offering. The work undertaken includes a soft refurbishment of the main meeting rooms and the addition of new AV equipment in all meeting rooms.

Hilton Leeds City Hotel has just undergone the biggest non-bedroom makeover in 2014 within Hilton with £450k spent on the fourth floor. This includes new and improved features such as built-in LCDs and screens, iPod docking stations and speakers. The makeover includes full redecoration of the meeting rooms, the addition of a built-in AV package, refurbishment of the foyer area and the addition of digital signage outside each room.

In the last 12 months Weetwood Hall Conference Centre and Hotel invested £250k on developing and refurbishing its meeting facilities and the Manor House bedrooms. The refurbished seminar rooms, located on the first floor of the conference centre, have been transformed into modern meeting spaces. A new addition to its meeting facilities are eight syndicate rooms along with an interview room to cater for the growing demand of smaller meetings.

Last summer saw The Queens Hotel spend £26,000 on re-decorating The Queens Bar with new furniture, and £50,000 on re-decorating some of the 215 bedrooms.

The 13,500-seat First Direct Arena opened in September last year and is the UK’s first purpose-built fan-shape design where all seats face the performance area. The venue hosted the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year in its 60th anniversary  last December for an audience of 12,000.

“There is a range of high quality venues to choose from in Leeds, which can be matched to the clients’ style, event type and budget,” says Butler. “From well-known hotel chains like Hilton, Marriott and Malmaision, which work well for conferences, to boutique and exclusive hotels including 42 the Calls and Residence 6 * by BridgeStreet for UK incentive trips.”

Other venues available for conferences and events include The Armouries; the Art Gallery for 160 guests; Leeds City Museum for 400; Leeds Discovery Centre for 60; Leeds Town Hall for 1,200; and The Carriageworks for 350.

This was first published in the March 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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