Meet Birmingham, the city’s official business tourism programme, welcomed 25 leading national buyers to its second annual Showcase event last week, impressing visitors with a comprehensive overview of the region’s conferencing credentials.
Organisers from across the country, including Christchurch, York, Cambridge and London, gathered in Birmingham to take part in over 50 hours’ worth of face-to-face meetings with over 30 of Meet Birmingham’s partners, including conference centres, accommodation providers, event support suppliers and headline sponsor Chiltern Railways. There were also 15 venue show rounds, displaying the wide variety of facilities available in the region.
Influential buyers from the agency, corporate, association and not-for-profit sectors, who collectively place over 15,000 events each year, visited sporting settings including Birmingham City FC and Edgbaston Stadium, the academic venues Conference Aston and venuebirmingham and hotels including Malmaison and Marriott Forest of Arden. A number of unique destinations such as Warwick Castle and Drayton Manor Hotel were also on attendees’ itineraries, as well as one of Europe’s largest exhibition centres, The NEC.
Buyers were given an exclusive tour of Aston Villa FC and an evening meal at the club’s Restaurant VMF – with Executive Chef Peter Reed explaining the story behind the award-winning eatery, which sources 80% of its produce from within a 40-mile radius of the stadium. Birmingham’s Town Hall hosted a morning of pre-matched appointments on day two, while also showcasing its conferencing and entertainment offer with a lunch accompanied by musical performances.
Graham Robinson, Director, Venue Finder Solutions, said: “The Meet Birmingham Showcase has been an education with a good mix of individuals and venues. It has been promising to see that Birmingham cares so much about conferencing and events and has a developing range of facilities, with excellent transport links both for the UK and overseas.
“The city is clearly investing for the future, both in the hotel sector and with its events facilities. I’ve also learned from my afternoon of visits that the region’s sporting venues are now also able to deliver a quality conferencing service.”
Richard Williamson, Event Manager, Jarvis Woodhouse Events, added: “I enjoyed getting a feel for the venues on the first day; it was beneficial to see such a lot of places in such a short space of time. The appointments were very relevant and very informative.”
Frances Mann, Sales and Marketing Manager, venuebirmingham, which hosted buyers at one of the city’s newest venues, the £18 million Bramall Music Building at the University of Birmingham, commented: “The Showcase has been important for us as it has put us in front of people who we wouldn’t normally get a chance to speak to – a group who might not have known about us beforehand. We thoroughly enjoyed showing off our facilities and have received some really positive leads, which we’ll be pursuing.”
Business tourism plays a key role in the city’s overall visitor economy of £4.9 billion. Having recently maintained its position as the top UK events destination outside London in the fourth annual British Meetings & Events Industry Survey 2012/13 (BMEIS), Birmingham’s strengths in the conferencing and events sector have once again been displayed in 2012. The city hosted WSAVA, Europe’s largest veterinary event with more than 10,000 visitors, as well as three internationally-renowned conferences over the summer, a traditionally quieter period across the country.
Ian Taylor, Commercial Director at Marketing Birmingham, the city’s strategic marketing partnership that operates the Meet Birmingham programme, said: “The positive feedback received by both buyers and our partners following a very productive two days of meetings, venue tours and informal discussions has been very pleasing. With £85,000 of immediate business secured in 2011 as a result of our inaugural Showcase, the event is becoming an important fixture in the city’s conferencing calendar.
“Birmingham has an enviable track record as a host of events of all sizes and, with the major investment currently taking place into a number of exciting developments including New Street station and the Library of Birmingham, we are confident that the city will continue to be the favoured destination for event organisers across the UK and beyond.”