Tracy Halliwell, director of business tourism and major events at London & Partners, says the city is still a major attraction despite Brexit
London remains as popular as ever and we’ve had some really successful events taking place this year, both on the corporate and on the association sides.
These last few months, we welcomed the European Respiratory Society congress, as well as the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, which broke all previous records with more than 5,600 delegates heading to ExCeL London for the five-day event.
On the corporate side, the capital hosted The AI Summit, a 1,000- attendee event that took place at the Business Design Centre, while the Sage Summit London welcomed 2,500 delegates.
There are various reasons why London has been so successful in attracting large-scale events.
First, the city is one of the, if not the most connected on the planet, with direct flights to and from 336 international destinations. Once here, London’s public transport makes it easy for delegates to move around, and this will only get better thanks to the launch of Crossrail, also known as the Elizabeth Line, at the end of 2018. The new line will connect Heathrow in the west to ExCeL in the east in 44 minutes, half the time it currently takes.
The range of venues we can offer to event planners is also second to none.
In particular, a host of new cultural spaces have launched over the last year, including the new Design Museum, now in the former Commonwealth Institute building in west London, the revamped Hintze Hall at the Natural History Museum, featuring a spectacular 25.2m diving blue whale skeleton, and the Postal Museum, the latest museum addition to London’s cultural scene.
The city is also not short of other iconic locations, such as the Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie or The Shard.
Finally, the scale of London’s accommodation offer means we can handle large groups coming in to the city. London is home to around 145,000 hotel rooms, with another 17,000 due to open by 2020 that will cater for all budgets. In 2016, 51 new hotels opened in London translating into 4,500 new rooms, 40% of which were in the budget sector.
Looking ahead, the city will be welcoming more high-profile events, with the International Association for Dental Research congress taking place in 2018, and Sibos coming to the city in 2019, among other things, and we look forward to working with clients to make those a success.
London has come a close second to Bangkok as a top-ranked international travel destination, according to the annual Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index released in September.
It is the second year running that London has held second place, based on 19.06m overnight visitors from overseas in 2016.
London’s importance as a global hub has once again been underlined because of its iconic landmarks, incredible architecture and arts scene, but also because of its world-class connectivity, in terms of getting to and within the city. Yet London stands out particularly for its shopping, representing 46.7% of visitors’ expenditure, more than any other city.