London has remained top of the list for event planners in 2014, with 88% of agencies and 63% of corporate planners surveyed in C&IT’s State of the Industry Report naming the capital as the UK destination they most used for events in 2014.
"In the UK, about 90% of our events are held in London as that’s where the vast majority of our clients are based," says Hayley Dove, events executive at Gorkana.
It has been an exciting 12 months for London with a variety of major hotel and venue openings that kicked off with the unveiling of The Shard’s Shangri-La hotel, in May 2014. Recent major openings that have got event planners talking included 20 Fenchurch Street’s Sky Garden, which welcomed event planners for the first time in January, and Leadenhall Building’s Level 42, now the highest dedicated event space in London.
The growth in popularity of areas, such as Shoreditch and Soho, has also contributed to the continued buzz around London. Lex Butler, creative director at Wolf & White, is an advocate for London locations outside of the more traditional options. "I personally love Shoreditch as a London destination for the ‘creative’ event. If my clients are looking for something wacky, I always start there."
Outside the capital
Popular destinations away from London included Birmingham and Manchester, with Liverpool also receiving a boost in popularity as a result of last June’s International Festival for Business.
Both Cushman & Wakefield and Kellogg’s took their staff to Manchester recently with the law firm celebrating its 10th anniversary on the cobbled streets of Coronation Street. Meanwhile, the cereal giant thanked 300 of its employees for 25 years of service with the company at the Imperial War Museum North.
Gorkana's Dove says: "In the rest of the UK, we go to the big city hubs as they are most accessible for the surrounding regions so make it easy for the highest possible number of our clients to attend our events; our events are essential to our client retention strategy. These include Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
"Manchester really stands out for us as it’s so easily accessible for most of NW England, has a range of high quality venues at reasonable rates with excellent service."
Roxanne Gargett, venue consultant, drp, is also excited by what Manchester has to offer. "Manchester has had a lot of money pumped into it and there are a lot of new and exciting venues. It also has a lot of diversity and a range of budget, luxury and unique venues, including Hotel Football and Hotel Gotham."
Fellow drp venue consultant Jody Carvill reveals that the city has been a popular destination for the agency’s clients looking for options outside of London. "The draw of football also attracts a lot of international delegates. Manchester is also extremely accessible and a lot more value for money."
Is London’s crown slipping?
With budgets tightening and the exchange rate becoming more favourable, event planners looking for value for money are finding that travelling to European destinations can actually prove more cost-effective than London.
"We’ve noticed clients wanting to do a lot more conferencing overseas and the perception that England is very expensive and the Euro being a lot cheaper is a cause of this," argues Charlotte Wilson, managing director at Pure Events.
"Doing events in Europe is becoming more appealing because companies’ business strategies are changing and clients are being more forward thinking and therefore wanting to get global divisions together more."
Drp’s Carvill says that other UK destinations have also benefited from this. "The Midlands is far more flexible than London and, as a result, clients are more interested in this part of the country." Carvill adds that the region’s easy accessibility, a variety of international convention centres and the overall value for money is attracting clients.