Investment is one of the key watchwords when it comes to developing a strategy to further a destination’s standing as a business event venue of choice for meetings and conferences. And investment is exactly the route Bournemouth is pursuing in its bid to raise the profile of the town as a leading UK conference and events destination.
The seaside town is set for a £220m injection of public and private sector funding in its growing local economy over the coming years, with the aim of encouraging inward investment and creating a vibrant, dynamic setting for conferences and events.
In addition to this investment, a new identity for Bournemouth’s conference and exhibition destination marketing, venue finding and delegate booking hub has been launched to provide a fully integrated single point of contact for anyone planning, running and attending events in Bournemouth.
Business Events Bournemouth is funded and delivered through a partnership between BH Live (the venue consortium), the Bournemouth Coastal Business Improvement District and Bournemouth Borough Council, through Bournemouth Tourism, supported by Bournemouth Accommodation and Hotel Association.
“This new and improved service will be a great asset in encouraging more organisers to bring their events to Bournemouth,” says BH Live Director of Venues Pat Coyne. “It will ensure rounded experiences for all our business visitors and will boost our performance as a major business destination.”
A host of major construction projects are being undertaken to give an extra stylish feel to Bournemouth town centre and enhance delegates’ time in Bournemouth.
Well underway, is the £85m project on the Terrace Mount site to build two Hilton hotels, 40 apartments and 170 parking spaces. Situated between the town square and Bournemouth International Centre, the accommodation is ideally placed for delegates attending the BIC.
A £12.3m project is going ahead to build a new residential and commercial complex on the site of the old Leyton Mount car park. The Citrus Building, with 64 apartments and 604sqm of commercial space, is set for completion next year.
Keen to use the town’s location by the sea to its advantage when bidding for conferences, the council started work on transforming the eastern side of its Pier Approach in October as part of the 20-year vision to develop a world-class seafront.
Further developments of Bournemouth’s academic venues as event spaces will see a new £22m building completed in 2016 at Bournemouth University. The four-storey, glass-fronted facility will offer seminar rooms and lecture theatres for residents and local businesses.
A £50m, all-weather leisure scheme incorporating cinemas, shops and restaurants, should help take care of delegate downtime.
Bournemouth’s major business and entertainment venues, BIC and Bournemouth Pavilion, which are operated by BH Live in partnership with Bournemouth Borough Council, have also seen recent investments.
The BIC has a capacity for 10,000 visitors for events and is placing a major focus on sustainability, something likely to please conference organisers with CSR targets to hit.
Investment targeted at improving the venue’s carbon footprint has resulted in a solar hot water scheme, new energy-efficient chiller appliances, and an LED, movement sensor lighting scheme for the multi-storey car park, which the venue says has cut annual electricity consumption by 50 per cent.
More than £1m of investment is planned for next year, which will include a PV array to cut CO2 emissions.
The Grade II listed, 1920s classic art deco building, the Bournemouth Pavilion, has capacity for 1,500 guests and can host theatre-style events, small exhibitions and event hospitality.
Both the BIC and Bournemouth Pavilion are experienced in hosting major events for public and private sector organisations.
“Our event programme for 2015/16 is packed with high profile events, including the Liberal Democrat Autumn Party Conference, GMB Congress, the Association of Breast Surgery Conference and AGM, and the Royal College of Nursing Congress,” BH Live’s Coyne, says. “Over 53,000 delegates will visit the BIC during 2015/16 and contribute £50m to the local economy through business tourism.”
The Skipper Expo Int Bournemouth took place at the BIC this October and Sharon Boyle from show organiser Mara Media tells CN the location and facilities offered were the deciding factors when it came to choosing the event destination.
“We were looking for a location that was easily accessible for commercial fishermen in England and Wales – and Bournemouth proved the ideal location,” Boyle says.
“We were especially attracted by the excellent facilities at the BIC, which enabled all the exhibitors plus five fishing boats to be on display in the one hall,” she adds.
When asked for the benefits of hosting an event in Bournemouth, Boyle says the choice of hotels and guest houses to suit all budgets, the multi-storey car parking at the BIC, which she says was a huge plus point for the expo, and the facilities and management personnel.
The 11th British Academy of Audiology (BAA) Annual Conference attracted 700 delegates and exhibitors to Bournemouth this November. The event featured a conference programme and exhibition in the Windsor Hall at the BIC, followed by a 1940s themed Gala Dinner and annual awards ceremony in the Purbeck Hall. The event, organised in partnership with H2 Events and Fitwise, is expected to have generated more than £500,000 to the local economy.
Michelle Booth, BAA Board Director for Publicity, Communications and Conference, says: “The BIC provided us with excellent facilities for our exhibition and conference programme, while the Purbeck Hall was the perfect venue for our Gala Dinner and awards ceremony, which was a sell out with over 500 tickets sold.”
Of the conferences and events upcoming in Bournemouth, the Liberal Democrats is one of the largest with over 4,000 delegates expected to attend each day of the five-day event.
Taking place 19-23 September 2015 at the BIC, the conference will be supported by an exhibition and programme of fringe events both in the conference venue and across the town. The conference is expected to generate £6.5m in economic benefit.
“Bournemouth has always been a popular conference destination for our members and we’re looking forward to being back by the sea and working with the team at the BIC again,” says Lucy Hope, Head of Conferences and Events for the Liberal Democrats.
If it’s a hotel with meeting space or accommodation for overnight stays you need, Bournemouth has a myriad of options.
Since its transition from the Marsham Court Hotel in 2011, Days Hotel has undergone a £1.5m refurbishment. The 87 en-suite bedroom hotel has eight conference suites for up to 230 delegates. Five further bedrooms are planned for 2015.
The three-star Victorian townhouse hotel, The Durley Dean Hotel, is situated close to the beach, while the Hotel Miramar has a prime clifftop location on Bournemouth’s East Cliff.
The Best Western Plus Connaught Hotel has been voted TripAdvisor’s No 1 Bournemouth Hotel. The hotel, which is coming to the end of a multi-million pound refurbishment, has five events spaces for up to 180 guests.
Ten things to do post-conference
1. Soak up the atmosphere – with seven miles of golden sand and coastal views, Bournemouth is ideal for delegates who want to keep active and make the most of the great outdoors. Delegates can also explore Bournemouth’s new Coastal Activity Park, with its 16-station outdoor gym trail.
2. Stroll through the gardens – Bournemouth has a range of historic parks and Grade II listed Victorian gardens. The Lower, Central and Upper Gardens are lit up after dark and, nearby, the Bournemouth Balloon awaits all year round to take guests up for a bird’s eye view of the town.
3. Be pampered – with a spa package and lunch or afternoon tea at one of the boutique hotels.
4. Treat yourself to some retail therapy – including branded high-street shops and department stores in the town centre. Nearby Westbourne has its own boutiques for exclusive one-off pieces.
5. Debrief over a drink – after a long day at a conference, catch up with colleagues and new contacts in one of Bournemouth’s many bars.
6. Dine out – Bournemouth offers an eclectic mix of restaurants and eateries to suit all tastes and pockets, from tapas to tagliatelle.
7. Catch a live gig – The BIC and Bournemouth Pavilion host live performances throughout the year, from international rock and pop acts to musicals and pantomimes, as well as live dance and comedy.
8. Take in a film – if you just want to kick back and relax after a long day, there’s Bournemouth’s Odeon cinema.
9. Laugh out loud – there’s no shortage of comedy clubs and open mic nights in venues in town to keep delegates amused. Comedy acts such as John Bishop, Lee Evans and Tim Vine are frequent visitors to the BIC.
10. Join the town’s Christmas party – if you are in Bournemouth in the run up to Christmas, the town’s Gardens of Light transform the garden landscape into a display of light pods, complete with outdoor ice rink, cafe and bar.
With a host of options for conferences and events already, as well as post-event activities, Bournemouth is aiming for an even bigger boom in business once its investment programmes have taken shape.
UKSG, a charity dedicated to exchanging ideas on scholarly communication, wanted to create something extra special for delegates to remember at its 2013 Conference and Exhibition. So, drawing on Bournemouth’s coastal location, they shipped in a funfair – and built it in the middle of the BIC.
They used the Tregonwell Hall for the conference, the Purbeck for the exhibition, the Windsor for the Gala Dinner and Disco, and the Solent for a pre-dinner reception with All the Fun of the Fair. On the first night, in the nearby Pavilion Ballroom, there was a ‘Dorset’s finest’ dinner buffet and quiz.
For the funfair a very big space was required – with doorways high enough and wide enough to accommodate a full-scale dodgem ride. To put everything together across all four halls and a ballroom required a logistically savvy ops team.
The 2013 UKSG conference and exhibition in Bournemouth welcomed an international audience of over 900 delegates, spending mostly three nights in Bournemouth.
Venue comment: “The UKSG event was a fitting test of all our resources,” says BH Live Director of Venues, Pat Coyne. “As well as holding very different activities in each of our four main halls, they booked breakout rooms for fringe meetings. We made the best use of the dynamics in each of the rooms to create a different experience each time, as the delegates moved around the event. The funfair was a real showstopper – and we had a lot of fun hosting this for UKSG.”
Delegate feedback: “The conference, dinner and entertainment was superb – excellent food and service. The venue staff and organisers should be commended for pulling off such a feat.”
“Tuesday night was the best conference dinner I’ve attended in all my many UKSG conferences. The fairground was fantastic fun, especially having it open again after dinner.”
Client comment: “UKSG chose to come to Bournemouth because the BIC and town have so much to offer our delegates. The accessibility of the town and close proximity of accommodation to the BIC is a real selling point, as is the location close to the gardens and seafront,” says UKSG Business Manager, Alison Whitehorn.
“We place heavy demands on our venue hosts, and even more so when we start bringing dodgems into the mix. The BIC was able to provide everything we needed under one roof, which was essential in creating a real buzz to the event. We were very pleased by the way everything was set up to generate a natural movement of people through the various areas we used. We’re looking forward to finding the BIC team a new challenge for 2016,” she adds.
This was first published in the December issue of CN. Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor