Northern Powerhouse

John Keenan looks at the latest initiative from the Northern Tourism Growth Fund, which sees a group of international PCOs get first-hand experience of the UK’s Northern Powerhouse cities

Four destinations from the North of England are hosting a group of international conference organisers on a large-scale familiarisation trip across the region straight after the IMEX Frankfurt show.

As part of the Northern Tourism Growth Fund, the group of cities has worked together over the last year to promote the region, raise awareness of the offer, and make things as easy as possible for conference organisers.

Representatives from Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and NewcastleGateshead, have been busy attending trade shows such as IMEX America and ibtm world and going on sales missions to mainland Europe and the US, promoting the region’s conference offer.

The city destinations attended IMEX Frankfurt before bringing a group of international buyers from the show to the region for the familiarisation trip.

Across four days they were set to see the region first-hand, visiting diverse venues as well as the unique experiences that make the North of England so distinctive. Their itinerary stretched from a visit to Liverpool’s UNESCO World Heritage Site to meeting a knight in shining armour at the Newcastle Castle Keep, via the grandeur of Manchester Town Hall and The Mansion in Leeds.

Conference organisers have praised the initiative for working together, saying that it has raised awareness of the North with an audience who would not previously have considered it, and it has shown the wealth of options in a relatively concentrated area.

Lois Gagné, who met the group at IMEX America, said: “I appreciate how beautifully the team worked over the hectic few days of the show, and I really felt like a VIP guest of Northern England during the 30 minutes I had with the team. It certainly triggered interest and a great desire to explore how to work together in future.”

Nick Brooks-Sykes, Marketing Manchester’s director of tourism, said: “We have been looking forward to welcoming these buyers to Manchester to showcase our city’s world-class facilities. Last year Manchester attracted 5m delegates, bringing £823m into the local economy. Our ambition is work with our partners to grow this to £1.2bn by 2020 and events like these are essential in achieving that goal.

“Thanks to facilities like Manchester Central and superb national and international connectivity, due to Manchester Airport, our city is increasingly the destination of choice for event and convention organisers. This year we are welcoming the EuroScience Open Forum, which will bring more than 5,000 delegates to our city and we are targeting other such large-scale, high-impact events. I hope the buyers enjoyed their stay and see that Manchester is place where great minds meet.”

Jennifer Young, associate director of visitor economy for VisitLeeds and ConferenceLeeds, commented: “Northern Tourism Growth Fund (NTGF) has been an excellent opportunity for Leeds over the last 12 months. It has supported ConferenceLeeds’ objective of promoting its offering internationally by providing additional opportunities that the team wouldn’t have had access to previously. NTGF has enabled ConferenceLeeds to enhance its presence at leading industry events including IMEX America, ibtm world and IMEX Frankfurt,   to further promote the city as a conferencing destination.

“By working together with other northern cities, the collaboration has meant that our strategic objectives and priorities have been aligned in order to provide an even stronger international conferencing proposition. The ConferenceLeeds team has been looking forward to showcasing its conferencing capabilities alongside the other three cities on the international fam visit, as well as welcoming delegates that we have met with true northern hospitality.”

Paul Szomoru, head of business tourism at NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau (part of the NewcastleGateshead Initiative), said: “A recent study has shown that although organisers’ budgets are tightening, 59% of corporates expect an increase in the number of events they organise compared to 2015 and they are starting to look at destinations which offer good value – a perfect opportunity to attract more conferences and events to the North of England.

“The Northern Powerhouse agenda is shining a light on Northern England, allowing us to really showcase what we have to offer. Through the Northern Tourism Growth Fund, a £10m Government-funded programme, where we’ve worked closely with VisitBritain, VisitEngland and colleagues right across the North of England, we’ve been able to promote the region in key international markets to maximise on international conferences and events coming to the North of England.”

Kate Currie at Marketing Liverpool added: “The appeal of Northern England destinations to conference organisers lies mainly in the fact that they are complementary. By working in tandem, we can attract more interest – and ultimately, business – than we would otherwise be able to in isolation.

“It’s a big year for Liverpool as the International Festival for Business returns, bringing thousands of delegates from around the world to the city for three weeks of events. It will all be based at Exhibition Centre Liverpool, the premium new facility on the Waterfront that forms part of ACC Liverpool – the only purpose-built interconnected arena, convention and exhibition centre in Europe. After IFB2016 is done, our thoughts will turn to European Association for International Education which brings 6,500 delegates here in September.”

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Conference News resides at the heart of the conference industry examining the issues affecting organisers, venues, destinations and suppliers. Published monthly, Conference News features the latest news, interviews and industry analysis from market influencers.

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