The national tourist board forecasts key developments for 2014 will include events that get delegates "back to nature", use unusual venues and reference sport.
Simon Gidman, head of business visits and events at Visit England, said: "With a spate of world-class tournaments on the horizon, a flood of unique venues opening their doors to the corporate market and a wave of events spaces taking delegates back to nature, VisitEngland predicts that sport, unusual venues and conferences in trees will all have an influence on the meetings and incentives industry next year."
Back to nature
New venues set to make the most of the great outdoors include new conference facilities at Bowcliffe Hall in Leeds. Inspired by a treehouse, a wooden hanger, which will hold up to 140 people for a drinks reception, will offer views through the trees to parkland thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows.
Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery will reopen in the summer following a £15m refurbishment that includes the opening of a park extension housing a first-floor ‘café in the trees’ and ground-floor learning studio opening onto an art garden, while London’s newest skyscraper, 20 Fenchurch Street, will open its Sky Garden next year. Spanning three floors, it will host up to 540 guests and house a champagne bar, brasseries and seafood bar and grill.
Delegates could find themselves bedding down in posh hostels, dubbed ‘poshtels’, thanks to new budget business traveller facilities, according to Visit England. The YHA recently spent more than £10m on refurbishments, with YHA York boasting private meeting rooms for hire.
The new luxury hostel brand Hoax launched in Liverpool in July, with its on-site live music space, Hatch, offering an art exhibition space and bar for hire for up to 250 people. Other poshtels offering budget accommodation include the Safestay Hostel in London’s Elephant & Castle, which boasts a heated garden terrace.
More religious buildings will enter the conference scene next year, with a centenary renovation project at Sheffield Cathedral involving an internal refurbishment that will enable the building to host 400 people for events. Albert Hall, a Grade II- listed Wesleyan chapel in Manchester, will officially open as a live music and conference venue in February, while the former convert and existing conference venue Stanbrook Abbey, in Worcestershire, is adding a further 50 bedrooms and event space next summer.
On the sporting front, England is set to host major events next year including three stages of the Tour de France and the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. It will also see the opening of venues such as the Lee Valley VeloPark and Hotel Football on the doorstep of Old Trafford, and the unveiling of a revamped Belfry, which has undergone £26m of improvements.