13 June 2016 kicks off IFB2016, the second edition of the successful 2014 event, with Liverpool again the host, Paul Collett considers the historic maritime city as a major event destination
The Real Thing asked us to ‘feel the force’ of change. John Lennon ‘imagined’ a world in total harmony. And Frankie, during a notable period of friction in Liverpool, urged us all to ‘relax’. Liverpool is a city with fire in its belly, eternal hope and diversity in its heart and the nouse to adapt and reinvent.
There is something about major port cities; a certain attitude and a confidence born of importance. Indeed, Liverpool, in addition to a glorious trading heritage, was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2004, European Capital of Culture in 2008 and UNESCO City of Music in 2015. Today, a vibrant city uses its monumental mercantile past, in tandem with its Beatles-based music contribution, to position itself as a major global events and business destination player.
The city is at the centre of a regional economy worth £121 billion, and is partnered with local Growth Hubs and European Regional Development Fund initiatives.
Central government is investing £800m across nine major transportation infrastructure projects, adding to already good connectivity and the city’s own international John Lennon Airport.
Last year’s figures from the global hotel reservation service, Hotel Info, show an average room rate rise of 3.06% on 2014’s figures. Liverpool is achieving some of the best hotel growth in the UK, illustrating the city’s domestic and international pull.
The first International Business Festival (IFB2014), shop window to the UK government’s Northern Powerhouse investment strategy, was a 50-day festival of British business courting overseas trade and investment supported by UKTI. “It’s always a challenge doing something new for the first time,” says Ian McCarthy, IFB0214/16 festival director. “At the time we didn’t have dedicated venue space, so we had to deliver using 90 venues scattered across the City Region, plus Newcastle, Manchester and Yorkshire.”
The festival attracted 68,000 business attendees from 92 countries and 415 events. Export sales secured or expected by 1,400 companies totalled £100m. Investment deals worth over £200m were estimated and 10,000 jobs created over a three-year period.
Such was its success, “about halfway through the festival at the Santander summit, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne urged us to start thinking about a second festival”, McCarthy explains.
“This June’s festival is much sharper and condensed, with a focus on attracting international businesses. We’ve really brought the international flavour to life with great representations from China, Eastern Europe, Nigeria, Mongolia and Malaysia. Plus we now have IFB18 and 20 in the pipeline,” he adds.
With around 70 business conferences and seminars attracting 30,000 delegates, this year’s festival is a three-week experience. “Furthermore, exciting day, evening and cultural programmes and a buzzing marketplace will show the very best of what the region and the country has to offer,” adds McCarthy.
Indeed, IFB2016 will be the biggest event held at the new Exhibition Centre Liverpool .
And, there’s a wealth of things to do after conference hours. If you’re looking for culture, see a play at Liverpool Everyman, winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize for the UK’s best new building in 2014. Or, for a one-off experience, dine 34 storeys in the air at Panoramic 34, with magnificent views over the city.
You can see a superstar at Echo Arena – Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Arctic Monkeys have all played there recently. And you must visit the world-famous Cavern Club, where the Beatles played 292 times. The biggest venue in the world? It must be: as there are at least 100,000 people who claim to have been at the Beatles’ first gig there.