There is no doubt that introducing a meetings and events division is a savvy decision for any historic or landmark building looking to bring in a new revenue stream to its business operations.
In recent years more and more amazing and unique spaces have become available to the corporate buyer, much of it prompted by a burst of lottery funding initiatives for large capital projects in the 1990s. As part of the conditions attached to securing funding, organisations had to show that they were going to maximise the use of their buildings and present balanced budgets. As such, opening their buildings to corporate events buyers was a logical decision.
By entering the events market place, landmarks were able to exploit the commercial potential of their venues, to help deliver on their charitable or maintenance commitments. This is certainly true of the majority of the association which I chair, Unique Venues of London, where 71 of our members are either charities themselves, or have charitable foundations which directly benefit from funds generated through hosting events.
It is fair to say that in many cases, venues are vital for ensuring that some of the country’s best loved landmarks are kept in mint condition for future generations. For example, last year our members generated approximately £65m from events. The majority of these funds have subsequently been invested back into the various museums, galleries, theatres, churches and attractions to fund their core work, whether that is in preserving priceless art work, supporting live art-forms or the general up-keep of beloved national monuments.
I myself am well aware of the valuable investment opportunities generated by events. At my venue, the Royal Opera House, all the revenue garnered from our commercial endeavours goes directly towards funding the work of The Royal Ballet and The Royal Opera companies. Looking further afield, venues including: Christchurch Spitalfields, St Paul’s Cathedral and St Martin-in-the-Fields, all use the money from their event spaces to help with their important outreach work with London’s homeless.
In terms of value to event organisers, landmarks are constantly investing both in terms of structure and facilities. At Unique Venues of London alone, we have seen £43m of investment across our membership in their meetings and events spaces in the first half of 2014. For example, Gibson Hall and London Museum of Water & Steam have pledged to enhance the delegate experience with upgrades that have come into effect over the past six months. Meanwhile to mark the centenary of the First World War, IWM London’s transformation, designed by Foster + Partners, saw new, contemporary event spaces open in July.
Although sometimes the unsung
hero, the venues and events divisions at charitable, heritage or cultural
institutions are an essential element that ensures they remain part of the
national fabric for generations to enjoy for years to come.
Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor