Visit Britain is back in the MICE game.
After sitting out the first half of this decade, the organization is actively seeking to attract events. The twist: London is not at the center of the push.
Yes, the London Eye is, well, eye-catching. And newcomers to the United Kingdom will surely want to see Big Ben and visit the Tower of London. But there’s more the country than what you already know, argues Gavin Landry, Visit Britain’s executive vice president for the Americas.
“There are so many quality convention centers throughout Great Britain that it would surprise some folks,” says Landry.
Moreover, attendees would not be given much up in ways of experience by branching outside the capitals. In February, Visit Britain launched a new campaign, “England’s Heartland” promoting Birmingham in particular. Birmingham accounts for 40 percent of England’s MICE business and hosted 56 new events in 2016 alone.
The marketing comes as a long-term project to high-speed rail moves ahead slowly. Birmingham is the first scheduled stop out of London once the project’s first phase is done in 2026. Manchester and Leeds also stand to benefit for the train in 2032.
Of more immediate benefit is the rise in the number of flights into airports besides London Heathrow. More than 19 million people fly into Manchester Airport, which serves 60 airlines flying to and from 200 destinations. Manchester’s airport is also slated to double in size by 2020 as part of a $1 billion expansion that includes a “super terminal.”
Manchester is considered a gateway destination, but planners will find staying there may suit their groups. There are more than 100 meetings and conference spaces in the city’s limits.
As proof Visit Britain isn’t paying lip service to this effort, it will host a new flagship MICE event on April 19-20, 2018. The goal is to attract more than 100 planners of meetings, events and incentive programs from North America and Europe to the first-time event, held ironically in London. MeetGB, as its known, occurs about a month after another major business travel event, ExploreGB, a networking program that debuted in 2017.
Landry also points to the addition of Karen McPhee, an industry veteran formerly focused on Liverpool, as a sign of Visit Britain’s meetings initiative.“There many opportunities outside of London to have meetings and events that are special and memorable,” reinforces Landry.