Business events big guns converge on Wales

Convention bureau Wales Business Events held its inaugural The Business of Events Wales conference in the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, where the new ICC Wales is under construction.

The idea was to motivate members of Wales’ meeting industry and others on its fringe to grasp the opportunity for growing the sector on an international scale, and some of the UK’s most prominent business events advocates were there to deliver the message.

Ben Goedegebuure also flew in from The Hague to outline what Wales needs to become a player in the international meetings market. Now Global general manager EMEA at Maritz Global Events and a member of the European Advisory Board of PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association), he led the sales team at the Scottish Event Campus, Glasgow, for six years and explained the strategies Glasgow and other successful cities have adopted to win international business.

He outlined the important decision-making factors destinations have to consider when marketing to international organisations. Affordability, ease of getting there, the infrastructure beyond the meeting facility itself, ease of doing business, tourism attractions, the economic development the event will bring, safety and security, CSR programmes which can sway the decision and the strengths of local universities, research hubs and companies which influence associations when choosing a destination.

Goedegebuure and other speakers stressed the necessity of getting senior academics involved in ambassador programmes and giving them support to bring conference business to the city.

Wales hasn’t one in place yet but Heledd Williams, who joined the Welsh government as head of business events in April, has first to implement the new five-point plan in place to accelerate Wales’ growing share of the global business events market.

She pointed out Wales gets only 1.95 per cent of the total £41 billion business events brings to the UK and wants to increase its share. “The International Convention Centre is the catalyst and why we’re propelling ourselves into this area,” she said. “I’m working with the industry to get Wales product ready and market ready.”

Other speakers were Heather Lishman, association director, Association of British Professional Conference Organisers, Ian Edwards, CEO, ICC Wales, Kerrin Macphie, head of business events, Visit Britain, and Joss Croft, director of Network Communications, Department for International Trade which was formed after the Brexit referendum to renegotiate trade deals across the world.

The ICC Wales is due for completion next June. A joint venture between Celtic Manor and the Welsh Government, it will seat 5,000 people theatre-style in the divisible pillar-free main hall, 1,500 people in the auditorium and include 12 flexible meeting rooms, a double-height glass atrium and 2,500 sqm outdoor plaza.