Affectionately known as Scotland’s Silver City, Aberdeen prides itself on not only being Europe’s booming oil and gas capital, but also as a prime location for international commerce.
With a MICE market that continues to flourish, the city is a key business destination with the strongest economy in the UK, outside of central London, according to Marketing Director at VisitAberdeen, Peter Medley.
“The strategy at VisitAberdeen is a two-fold approach,” Medley tells CN. “We acknowledge that we are an energy city and we target this area of strength, both in terms of associations, and corporate meetings and events in the energy sector supply chain.
“This is an initiative we are pushing through our chairmanship of the Energy Cities Alliance, which is a marketing group now consisting of Aberdeen, Abu Dhabi, Calgary and Stavanger. Focusing on our key strengths allows us to attend key energy sector events and grow our industry contacts at events,” he adds.
The city’s academic institutions are highly thought of, and Medley acknowledges the importance of both the Robert Gordon University and the University of Aberdeen. “By focusing on their academic areas of excellence, we are looking to re-establish our Ambassador Programme as a key driver of growth for meetings,” he says.
Aberdeen’s flagship events venue, the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) recently reported its best year to date, with turnover hitting £8.4m and business almost trebling in the last three years.
The venue has seen an increase in all forms of its events business, including national and association conferences, exhibitions and banqueting. AECC hosted almost 600 events in 2013/14 and reported a 20 per cent growth in conferences of over 100 delegates. In addition to this, the venue reported a 52 per cent rise in tradeshow attendance.
This business sector growth has led to the decision by Aberdeen City Council to develop a new, larger AECC at Bucksburn in conjunction with Henry Boot Developments.
The new venue is part of a £185m development, which includes hotels, office spaces and an Energy Centre. Currently in the pre-development phase, final go ahead is due to be given in December 2014.
Victoria Withy, Head of Communications at AECC, tells CN the current venue is “bursting at the seams”, and business demand is “absolutely there for a larger venue”.
“We have one arena, which hosts a range of events from exhibitions, conferences and entertainment. With the build up and break down of conferences and exhibitions, and with most events having long lead times, the entertainment sector is being squeezed out. Not only this, but organisers increasingly want to expand in the arena, something we just don’t have the space for,” she says.
It is hoped the new development will open up opportunities to attract more concerts, and a number of shows that require larger capacity.
The new AECC will provide a 9,000sqm arena space with capacity for 15,000 standing guests, a 36,000sqm exhibition space, as well as three hall spaces.
In addition to the AECC development, the De Vere Village Urban Resort at Kingswell will open in late November 2014. The 140-room hotel, which has applied for permission for another 50 rooms before it opens, offers space for 200 delegates theatre-style, and also features a restaurant for 250 guests.
The Moxy Hotel, Marriott’s three-star economy brand, will open in early 2016, adjacent to Aberdeen International Airport. This hotel will feature 200 guest rooms and is ideally located for the new AECC.
Canadian-based Sandman Hotel group will open its first hotel in Scotland in Aberdeen at the former Robert Gordon University Campus in the city centre. The £20m refurbishment will create 220 rooms and conference facilities.
This was first published in the October issue of CN. Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor