ICC boost for London

London's international conference centre has finally opened, with backers claiming it will bring billions to the UK economy. But will it be welcomed by UK buyers?

As the ICC London Excel opened its doors to agency and corporate buyers at its inauguration on 24 June, its backers pledged it would bring billions to the UK economy.
Owner ADNEC has injected £165m into the expansion of Excel London, in east London, with a further £50m for a new Starwood Aloft hotel. Excel London chief executive Kevin Murphy and mayor of London Boris Johnson acknowledged the perception of transport challenges, but pledged that infrastructure investment would make the ICC the most well-connected venue in the world.

C&IT quizzed buyers on their first impressions of the ICC and - most importantly - whether they would be using the new facility...

CHRIS PARNHAM
managing director - operations, Zibrant

It's a space London has missed for a very long time. It is in the first phase and will fully deliver once all the transport and hotel rooms are available. We certainly have business that could be placed there, but an inbound event would struggle because getting everyone to the venue would be difficult. A UK client would be fine.

SARAH WRIGHT
head of events, UK Retail Banking, Barclays

We have already used it and I think it's a fantastic addition to Excel and offers huge flexibility. The team is incredibly passionate about making it a success and we would like to use it again. The technology in place is a huge advantage and, in terms of transport, Prince Regent DLR station is already there, linking directly to the centre.

LEIGH JAGGER
chief executive, Banks Sadler

London has long needed a venue with that sort of capacity. Certainly we'd consider using it and will be putting it forward to clients. For me, it does what it says on the tin - there is good space and I like the fact there is so much natural daylight. Transport has always posed a problem for Excel; but it's not difficult to get to, it is more perception. Longer term, with additional infrastructure, it will be very well placed.

RICK STAINTON
managing director, Smyle

ICC London has obviously thought about event organisers' needs in terms of rigging and hanging, and it is a venue we are increasingly proposing. We put it to a client about three weeks ago but they didn't go for it because of the travel links. However, improved links in the coming years will make a massive difference to access from Heathrow, an issue for our international delegates.

STEVE MOFFETT
managing director, SML Marketing and Events

They have tried not to imbue it with too much personality so organisers can put their mark on it. In terms of flexibility, it is phenomenal. From a producing point of view, when you work in that type of space you like the fact it's cavernous. We are talking to people about using it, for the simple reason of size. I prefer empty boxes and that is what they have strived to deliver.

RICHARD WADDINGTON
chief executive, First Protocol

I was sceptical when they started to build out there, but seeing how the whole area has evolved I think it is brilliant. It is long overdue and the investment will give London some great facilities. There are challenges in transportation, but they are not insurmountable. In an ideal world, people would like it to be in the centre of a city, but you won't get those facilities in the middle of London.

NICKY HAVELAAR
managing director, Crown Business Communications

My caution to the ICC is marketing. London has not been represented enough in the wider world, and that is where it really should hammer it. The ICC will be at the forefront of my mind; it has the flexibility of Excel and the services of a high-flying convention centre.

JOHN STRACHAN
managing director, Maximillion

Before I went to see the ICC, I assumed it was merely an extension of the existing facilities at Excel. But this is more about conferences than exhibitions. It is jaw-droppingly impressive in terms of its scale, scope, flexibility and the quality of the finish. The technology is hidden away so it's not overtly visible, but Cisco is leading the way. I flew into City Airport from Edinburgh and, unless you jump in a taxi, the venue is a bit frustrating to get to. There is still some work to be done in that regard.

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