Break for the border

Towns and cities within close proximity to UK borders are proving a draw for London business and beyond.

Although London and the south east is the biggest magnet of all for major meetings in the UK, border areas and the curiosity of crossing boundaries is always a pull for organisers and delegates. Our multi-nation state certainly offers a variety of options, across what are, for now at least, all soft borders.

The ICC Wales will open in 2019, providing the Principality’s first purpose-built international convention centre.

Located at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport just two minutes from the M4, ICC Wales is a £83.7m joint venture between the owners of the Celtic Manor Resort and the Welsh Government that will place the destination firmly at the forefront of business tourism centres and enable Wales to attract and host large-scale events from all over the world.

Boasting 26,000sqm of multi-functional events space for up to 5,000 delegates, ICC Wales will be positioned just 10 minutes from the English border at the Severn Bridge, with both Bristol and Cardiff International airports just over 30 minutes away. The new ICC will be well placed for business from the Midlands and other bordering English regions thanks to its proximity to the M5 motorway.

Ian Edwards, chief executive, ICC Wales says: “Our proximity to the English border – as well as our international connectivity – will make our venue ideal for event organisers from the UK and the rest of the world. Recent major events at Celtic Manor such as the Ryder Cup and NATO Summit have demonstrated the willingness of domestic and international visitors to come here. There’s no doubt that being just a stone’s throw away from the border helps with both positive perceptions and awareness of our location.”        

In the north east of England, and some 40 miles from the Scottish border, is the city conurbation of Newcastle and Gateshead. The two form a single conference destination, NewcastleGateshead.

The train journey time from London Kings Cross is less than three hours, while Edinburgh’s Waverly station is just a further 90 minutes up the line.

NewcastleGateshead offers a wide selection of city centre, boutique, academic, independent, and brand-named accommodation and conference facilities. There are 7,500 city-centre bedrooms while the Sage Gateshead can run major events for up to 1,650 delegates. The Boiler Shop has recently been refurbished transforming the industrial Grade II* listed warehouse into a flexible event space. Constructed in the 1820s for the Robert Stephenson & Co. Locomotive Works, The Boiler Shop was the birth place of the famous Rocket steam locomotive. With capacity for 800 delegates, the venue is full of engineering history and a great backdrop for events. And, between the Scots border and Newcastle, rural Northumberland offers many country manors and venues.

Further to the west and nearer to Scotland sits Carlisle. Not the most accessible destination, but England’s largest city in terms of area (402sq. mi.) offers an unusual ‘Borders’ hybrid feel that event organisers looking for a more out of the way destination and a challenge, may find interesting. There is a castle and a conference centre in the city. In fact, it could be said that Carlisle sits at the crossroads of the UK and Ireland.

Over the water, VisitBelfast reports a quarter of all their conference business comes from London-based companies, with the trend indicating that this is growing.

Deborah Swain, conference and sales manager at VisitBelfast, points to ease of access being a plus point. She says: “We have 230 flights to London airports weekly and prices are cheaper than return rail costs when booked in advance. Couple this with the fact that flight times are one hour and you can see why event organisers choose Belfast.”

Belfast Waterfront, the city’s flagship conference space, has invested over £30m in recent years and now boasts 4,000sqm of flexible space. Delegates can easily walk to the venue from their hotels, of which there are 20 close by.  And, if the North/South border in Ireland does not become a ‘hard’ crossing post-Brexit, organisers can also spread their event to Dublin and beyond.

Martin Fullard

Author

Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard: journalist, presenter, producer. Martin is the Deputy Editor at Conference News and Conference & Meetings World magazines. He leads the digital channels on Mash Media’s Conference Division as well as heading up Mash TV. He is formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

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