Manchester’s economic and political leaders have identified three growth sectors for the region: Advanced Materials, Digital, and Life Sciences. As these sectors thrive, they are likely to drive conference and meetings business, too.
The University of Manchester is the birthplace of graphene, the world’s first two-dimensional material. The £61m National Graphene Institute has been completed, designed as a world-leading research and incubator centre housed inside a 7,600sqm building with plenty of meetings space.
The University of Manchester will host Graphene Week in June 2015, including the International Conference on the Fundamental Science of Graphene and Applications of Graphene-Based Devices. The event should attract 400 scientists from across the world, contributing approximately £700,000 in economic benefit to the city.
The 2015 event will be the ninth outing in the series, which has previously taken place in cities across Europe and once in the USA.
Staying with the advance materials theme, and the 14th International Symposium on Metal-Hydrogen Systems, MH2014, came to Salford for the first time in its history this July.
The event brought 450 of the world’s leading academics and young researchers and saw approximately £1m of expenditure brought to the local economy as visitors stayed in Salford and Manchester hotels for the week. Hosted by the University of Salford at The Lowry from 20 to 25 July 2014, the conference looked at ways of storing hydrogen for use in transport.
On the digital theme, MediaCityUK has become Europe’s first purpose-built digital and media hub. Home to more than 120 creative businesses, some 15,000 jobs are forecast for the area over the next 20 years.
This digital production environment features the largest HD studio in Europe, and is home to ITV and six BBC departments.
And, this year also saw the Institution of Engineering and Technology hold the 9th IET System Safety and Cyber Security Conference in Manchester. It was the largest conference for system safety specialists held in the UK.
Over to life sciences, and The Corridor is a business location covering 243 hectares with a 55,000-strong workforce. It is home to The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, and The Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – making the Corridor the largest academic campus in the UK.
Manchester secured the International Conference on Urban Health 2014 with conference ambassador Dr Arpana Verma. It attracted 1,000 delegates and is estimated to have generated in the region of £1.8m to the local economy.
Upcoming Manchester Metropolitan University has been announced as the host of the European Intelligence and Security Informatics Conference (EISIC). Set to take place at MMU from 7-9 September 2015, EISIC is regarded as the flagship European conference on counterterrorism and criminology.
It is estimated that the event will contribute £160,000 in economic benefit to the city. The 2015 event will be the fifth outing in the series which has previously taken place in Greece, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands.
Manchester has been confirmed as the host destination for the XXIV EFMC – International Symposium on Medicinal Chemistry in 2016 after a ‘Team Manchester’ collaborative approach impressed decision-makers.
The biennial International Symposium on Medicinal Chemistry organised by the European Federation of Medicinal Chemistry (EFMC-ISMC) is a key symposium in drug discovery and will bring 1,400 international participants from industry and academia in a deal worth approximately £3.3m to the city.
EFMC-ISMC was secured through a partnership approach between Visit Manchester, Manchester Central and the Biological and Medicinal Chemistry Sector of the Royal Society of Chemistry. The bid was led by Peakdale Molecular’s Dr Matthew Tozer, with support from The University of Manchester, the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, the Society of Chemical Industry, Bionow and AstraZeneca.
If science is the big theme to drive the city region’s conference future, then what of the venues. Where is the investment going and what is different?
Whitworth Art Gallery is undergoing major work to double the public space of the gallery into leafy Whitworth Park. The gallery is set to reopen in early 2015 and will offer meeting rooms for hire.
In spring 2015, HOME, a new purpose-built centre for international contemporary art, theatre and film will open, offering space for event hire, too.
The delayed Hotel Football, owned by Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, will offer its five-a-side football pitch for event hire and a further six meetings spaces catering for up to 400 people, provided it does eventually open in March 2015.
Hotel brand Melia Innside is to open a brand in the First Street North development. There will be 208 rooms and a 350-seat conference facility; a 140 cover full service restaurant, a wellness suite and gym.
A condition of the devolution package agreed by Manchester included a pledge to make the city a ‘science capital’. This is an important recognition given Manchester’s significant scientific legacy, and well-timed as Manchester prepares to host the EuroScience Open Forum in 2016.
Attracting scientific events is at the heart of Manchester’s business tourism and conference strategy. The city’s stakeholders work in partnership to identify, attract and support key scientific events in the city. Agencies from Visit Manchester – the city’s convention bureau – to MIDAS – the inward investment arm – and the city’s economic think tank New Economy are pursuing this common goal.
Housed in one square mile, The Quays, Greater Manchester’s waterfront destination, offers venues for both large-scale conferences of up to 1,730 delegates and for smaller meetings and training days.
The Quays is home to the Copthorne Hotel, a popular venue for up to 160 delegates. Emirates Old Trafford, the home of Lancashire County Cricket Club, meanwhile, has redeveloped its Pavilion and, together with its Point conference centre, can handle over a thousand delegates offering views of the pitch.
The Lowry can accommodate up to 1,730 delegates in its theatres and The Imperial War Museum North offers a 360-degree cinematic experience and a main event space for up to 700 guests.
The marketing consortium for Salford Quays tells CN there has been a 25 per cent rise in events business in the past 12 months. Private Christmas parties are returning although events booking lead times are still fairly short.
Agency volumes are up 20 per cent this year. “Everyone is looking for something different, memorable,” a spokesperson tells CN. “They want to be able to stand out with their event, but they also need to know they are getting value for money. As businesses have learnt the power of negotiation so much more in the past few years, we need to be flexible for our clients. Gone are the days of the 9-5 conference with lunch at 1!
Top 10 after hours activities
1. High end dining – Manchester is in the midst of a foodie revolution and is attracting top chefs from around the country. Two Michelin star Simon Rogan is at the forefront, operating The French, which recently gained four AA rosettes. Aiden Byrne is hot on his heels at Manchester House and, at Australasia, former young Australian chef of the year Paul Greening offers innovative Australian cuisine in a spectacular setting.
2. Land of the Rising Sun – Previously, Manchester suffered from a dearth of authentic Japanese restaurants in the city but more recent arrivals from the Far East have set Manchester’s culinary scene alight, highlights include: Yuzu, Umezushi and Sakana.
3. Grab a burger – Manchester could easily compete for the title of burger capital of the UK, with more burger joints than the average carnivore can comprehend. There’s plenty to choose from but the standout options are: Almost Famous, SoLIta, Southern Eleven and Gorilla.
4. Bowled over – Whether you’re hitting strikes or stuck in the gutter, Dogbowl or All Star Lanes are bowling meccas that also serve top quality food and drinks.
5. Craft beer bars – There has been a flurry of new brewery openings across Greater Manchester and bars acquiring the fruits of their labour include: Cask in Castlefield, Port Street Beer House and 57 Thomas Street in the Northern Quarter, and Brewdog on Peter Street.
6. Cocktails – You don’t have to look far for a chic cocktail bar in Manchester, as Grand Pacific, The Alchemist, Cloud 23 and the Lounge-on-12 all offer stylish surroundings.
7. Traditional boozers – Manchester is home to a variety of old-fashioned pubs, with favourites including: The Britons Protection (just a hop from Manchester Central) and The Marble Arch which has an interesting tiled interior and a wide selection of ales.
8. Raise the stakes – Manchester 235 is a casino complex in the heart of the action.
9. It’s showtime – Why not take in a show at the Palace Theatre or The Lowry.
10. Comedy – Have a laugh at one of Manchester’s thriving comedy clubs. The Frog and Bucket have been uncovering comedic greats since 1993.
Local Knowledge | How they sell it
Paul Bayliss, General Manager of Macdonald Hotel & Spa and Chair of the Manchester Hoteliers Association:
“Manchester is an iconic city on a global scale and accessible for business in the centre of the country. Our sales team use the musical, cultural and sporting heritage of Manchester in conversations with clients. This year, we even introduced ‘Hidden gems’ city tours led by our doorman for business guests. At Macdonald Townhouse Hotel we offer a ‘Cotton On’ meetings package which plays to Manchester’s industrial past as the building was a former cotton warehouse.
The hotel wins much business due to its location next to Piccadilly station in the heart of Manchester.
Manchester’s biggest strength is that it is a renowned international city with friendly people and is incredibly accessible. It has all of the amenities and facilities any serious player in the conference market needs. The biggest challenge for the city is often availability, however.”
Mike Magrane, General Manager of The Midland:
“The Midland was the official political conference hotel in Manchester for the Labour Party Conference in September.
Political party bookings also mean increased security. All staff at the hotel are accredited by the police which helps give other high profile event bookers peace of mind that their event is handled by a team of approved and experienced staff.
We know from event booker feedback that Manchester is an attractive city for conferences and events due to its size; the ease of navigating it, and venues and accommodation bing not spread out too far.
Manchester’s central location and its transport links via road, rail, air and the improved Metrolink system make it a great meeting point.
The city, however, does face challenges. The top ones are infrastructure across the region, staying ahead of the market, as other UK cities try to challenge us in this arena, and pricing, as, since the recession value is questioned more than ever.”
Any comments? Email Paul Colston