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Mon 18 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Going for gold

England is making sure that Olympics enthusiasts are not the only potential visitors planning ahead.

England is making sure that Olympics enthusiasts are not the only potential visitors planning ahead.

With new venues planned in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games, a brand new international railway station and increasingly good accessibility, things can only get better for England.

Hana Abdulla, media & trade relations executive, VisitBritain says that easy accessibility and internal transportation system make England a popular option for meetings planners, as does its extensive and well-developed meetings infrastructure.

"It is cheap to get to so you have high delegate numbers and you can find good business travel goods and services (a/v, hotels and venues)," she explains.

"Britain itself is a very popular destination and the world's number one nation brand, according to the Anholt National Brand Index.

The UK received some 33,000 visitors from the UAE in 2006, 18% of whom were classed as business travellers, which includes those travelling for meetings, incentives trips, conferences and exhibitions.

Those visitors spent GBP 43 million (US $85 million) during the year, 22% of the entire revenue generated by visitors from the UAE in this period, evidence that business travellers spend more than leisure visitors.

A further 13,000 business visitors came from Saudi Arabia in the same period, as well as 17,000 from the rest of the GCC, 2000 from Iran and 12,000 from the rest of the Middle East.

According to Abdulla, last year's big news was the opening of the new Arena Convention Centre Liverpool (ACCL) as well as new meetings facilities at sporting venues including Chelsea Football Club's home ground, Stamford Bridge, in West London, Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium and Arsenal Emirates Stadium.

The ACCL comprises the BT Convention Centre, a purpose built meetings facility consisting of three auditoriums, 18 breakout rooms and a 3725 m² multi-purpose hall and the Echo Arena Liverpool; a state of the art 10,000-seater arena on the Kings Dock on the River Mersey.

Bluewing, Chelsea Football Club's hospitality and conference venue, has had a multi-million-pound makeover and can now accommodate events from meetings for two to a reception for 1500 people on non-match days.

Facilities include 21 function rooms and 60 syndicate rooms, including the Great Hall, which is one of the largest function spaces in London.

According to Visit Britain's head of business visits and events, Joss Croft, the increasing popularity of using sporting venues as meetings venues is down to an increase in demand for venues and huge international popularity of Premier League football.

"British football is popular throughout the world, but as well as that I think the stadiums themselves are starting to look for year-round, or even week-round business," he tells MIME.

"On non-match days they can still make money buy opening up the facilities to meetings and events.

Corporate hospitality and meetings programmes running along side major sporting events were also becoming popular, he adds.

Elsewhere in the country, the Raven Hall Country House Hotel - located in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park - has teamed up with the nearby Pesky Husky Centre to offer a unique activity to incentives travel bookers or team-building planners; husky-sledding.

The hotel provides a range of teambuilding services, has meeting suites for up to 150 day-delegates and can accommodate 100 residentially.

VisitBritain's Abdullah also cites the good public transportation system in England as one of the reasons it appeals to international planners.
At the end of 2007, rail operators London and Continental Railways (LCR) and Eurostar unveiled the new-look St. Pancras International station. All Eurostar trains bound for Paris, Brussels or beyond will now depart from St. Pancras instead of Waterloo.

St. Pancras International is served by six underground lines and seven rail companies operating from St. Pancras, King's Cross and nearby Euston.

The Victorian Gothic St. Pancras Chambers is being restored and will open in 2009 as a 245- bedroom five-star hotel with 68 city-centre apartments.

Passengers arriving by air will also benefit from the opening of Terminal 5 at Heathrow on March 27.

The terminal building, which is set to become the biggest freestanding building in the UK, will be used exclusively for the arrivals and departures of British Airways flights, giving BA passengers access to dedicated ground and airport services.

Middle East airlines continue to up their frequencies to England - Emirates now has 13 daily flights to five different airports; Birmingham, London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester and Newcastle.

Events planners that do regular business in England or are considering organizing an itinerary there should consider attending Discovery - VisitBritain's bi-annual flagship incentive experience, which enables international buyers from the world's leading companies to identify the UK venues, destinations and experiences for their meetings, conferences and incentive programmes.

The event is due to take place from October 19 to 21. For more information visit www.visitbritain.com/discovery08.

THE UK AT A GLANCE: what’s new in EnglandLondon's Battersea Power Station will provide a new accommodation, entertainment and conference complex when it is completed in 2009.

The University of Manchester will launch its new conference venue, with 23 seminar rooms and a 1000-seat auditorium in summer 2008.

The Lumiere in Leeds is expected to be completed in 2010 and will contain a variety of restaurants and retail space.

Birmingham

International Convention Centre (640,080m²)

National Exhibition Centre (610,000m²)

Renewal Conference Centre (9144m²)

Leeds

Bridgewater Place (131,235 m²)

Royal Armouries Hall at Royal Armouries Museum (2880 m²)

Leeds United Stadium (39,460 seats)

Liverpool

Arena and Convention Centre Liverpool (23,622 m²)

Hulme Hall (3048 m²)

Aintree Racecourse (56,000 seats)

London

ExCel London (295,275m²)

Earls Court London (193,548m²)

Olympia Exhibition Centre (130,820m²)

Wembley Conference & Exhibition Centre (65,526m²)

Barbican Exhibition Centre (26,246m²)

The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre (17,345m²)

Manchester

York Science Park (30,480m²)

York Business Centre (7620 m²)

York Racecourse (60,000 seats)

Source:MPI UK Chapter, http://www.mpiuk.org/

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