Destination Guide: Scotland

C&I destinations to watch in 2014

Leicester, Leeds and Aberdeen have big plans to emerge as three of the UK's top conference and incentive destinations in 2014.

Leeds: C&I destinations to watch in 2014
Leeds: C&I destinations to watch in 2014

Top emerging C&I destinations of 2013

Leicester

"We don’t need to wait until 2017 to show ourselves off. We’re going to do it now." This was the message from Leicester’s mayor after it lost out on their City of Culture bid to Hull. The bid for was built around illuminating the ‘creativity and diversity’ of the area. However, rather than letting it simmer for three years Leicester plans to kick-start its plans next summer with more details to follow in early in 2014.

Aside from its cultural ambitions, Leicester’s potential as an events destination has seen significant growth due to its convenient and central location. This has been recognised with several multi-million pound developments to the city’s event venues, including a £17.5m redevelopment of the University of Leicester’s conference centre.  

Leicester’s cultural quarter is home to two highly regarded event spaces, the Athena and the Curve Theatre, an £80m project that opened in 2008. Last year the Athena hosted the FSB National Conference and the CBI Awards.

2014 will see the NHBC Health and Safety Awards come to the venue for the first time as well as retail giant Next’s annual dinner. Last year the award winning Curve Theatre welcomed almost 30,000 delegates from business events and conferences through its doors and it will be hoping to flourish in 2014. Next year the venue will be working with the likes of Leicester Mercury, Local World and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

It remains to be seen whether or not the city’s attempts to push their plans forward to next summer will be successful however, it is clear that in light of a disappointing November they are out to prove a point in the new year.

Leeds

2013 was undeniably a massive year for Leeds. It was the year the city announced that they would be bringing the Tour de France to the UK when it hosts the Grand Depart next July. It was also the year that the red tape was cut on two of its biggest recent developments: the state of the art shopping complex, Trinity Leeds, and the Leeds Arena, now operating under the First Direct brand.

In the retail sector, funding has recently been approved for the £130m development of a high-end shopping outlet in the Victoria Quarter. Before Trinity Leeds opened it was forecast that an extra 22 million visitors would come to the city whilst boosting the local economy by just over 15%. In light of this, the council confirmed the plans in September for a second major retail development in the city centre with the hope of not only sustaining this growth but also increasing it. Development on the site of the First Direct Arena will also continue with the £4.8m Leeds Arena Hilton Hotel, the hotel giant’s second venture in the West Yorkshire destination.

It is undeniable that the big event in Leeds’ calendar next year will be the Grand Depart when it kicks off outside the City Hall on the 5 July. TV cameras from all over the world will be focused on the city and its countryside for two days along with hordes of tourists spanning the globe. This event is on a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ scale, which will undoubtedly put Leeds under the magnifying glass for 2014.

Aberdeen

In the wake of the referendum, analysts are trying to decide whether or not Scottish independence is sustainable for everyone. However, one city that is expected to flourish on its own two feet is Aberdeen. Already boasting a university, an airport and an envious location beside the North Sea, the prospect of an independent Scotland is one that Aberdeen will be watching very closely. The city has been earmarked by the SNP as one of three major destinations with plans for the city to become the home of Scotland’s own Energy Ministry.

With or without this title, Aberdeen already attracts a great deal of visitors thanks to its C&I capacity. The Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) has held 611 events in the past year welcoming more than 300,000 people to the city. Offshore Europe, the biennial oil and gas show, has been a permanent fixture at the AECC since its opening in 1985 and in 2013 the event attracted 63,000 visitors, a record attendance for the venue. 

Plans to get started with a £13m redevelopment of Aberdeen Airport have very recently been given the go ahead, which reflects the city’s hunger to bring in more and more visitors.

This coincides with the launch of numerous new routes from the North East terminal across Europe, which all in all is expected to grow passenger numbers by 20%.

However, with the development of technology accelerating into 2014 at a lightening pace some sectors of the events industry are increasingly upping their spend to try and ensure that their tech capabilities are up to scratch. In light of this, Aberdeen isn’t content with seeing its history as an events destination get left behind. In October, Aberdeen City Council announced that the AECC would pass on the torch to a brand new £200m exhibition centre, which is expected to open adjacent to the airport in 2017. 

Aberdeen’s financial commitment to reinvigorate the venue comes as no surprise. The AECC’s economic contribution to the city has increased over the last two decades from £12m to almost £110m whilst simultaneously supporting more than 1,000 jobs. The AECC is still a magnet for events with the Scottish Liberal Democrats conference returning to the North East after an 11-year absence and delegates for the European Student Energy Summit flocking to the venue in June.

Aberdeen will have to wait a few more years until such developments are complete but it can’t be denied that the city is on the path to realising its full C&I potential. Will 2014 be the year when its competitors realise it as well? 

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