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Birmingham has been ranked the most popular destination outside London for meetings, conferences and events by the fifth annual British Meetings & Events Industry Survey (BMEIS). 

The city remains ahead of Manchester, Glasgow and Leeds as the preferred UK regional events destination among industry professionals. 

The BMEIS survey provides research each year into the buying trends of more than 600 event organisers from the corporate and not-for-profit sectors in the UK.

The 2013/14 survey revealed that access and location are the top influencing factors in selecting a destination, while city centre hotels enjoy more use than any other type of venue.

Ian Taylor, commercial director of Marketing Birmingham, which operates the city’s official business tourism programme Meet Birmingham, said: “Birmingham’s ranking as the preferred business tourism destination outside London highlights the wealth of event spaces that we offer across the region and the continued hard work of our partners to provide the best possible experiences for our visitors. 

“The findings demonstrate the impact that events can have in educating and building important relationships with the people who organise conferences, meetings and events. 

“Business tourism remains crucial to the city, playing a key role in securing a record 33.8 million visitors here last year. The current redevelopment of New Street Station and the expansion of the airport’s runway will only help to make the city even more connected and attractive to this valuable market.”

The survey’s findings follow the third annual Meet Birmingham Showcase in November. The two-day event, organised by Meet Birmingham, provided an overview of the region’s conferencing offer, bringing together more than 50 regional suppliers and event buyers, who collectively place more than 20,000 events each year.  

Meet Birmingham also continued its push to bring more national and international events to the region at EIBTM in Barcelona, exhibiting with the country’s national tourist board VisitEngland and meetings venue Warwick Conferences.

Meet Birmingham joined forces with the NEC and The Belfry to highlight two of the region’s future developments. The £150 million integrated leisure and entertainment complex Resorts World Birmingham will open at the NEC site in 2015, while the £26 million renovation of golfing resort The Belfry is scheduled for completion in March 2014.

The Government is on the hunt for a roster of agencies to work on a £50m event planning and delivery framework covering events for government departments and public sector bodies.

The invitation to tender follows a call from the office earlier this year for agencies to submit applications for its event management framework by September. This renewed call for submissions gives agencies until 10 January to apply.

The Cabinet Office, via the Government Procurement Service, said it envisages working with around 25 suppliers on the four-year contract, which it values at between £40m and £50m.

The latest tender document stipulates "events planning, delivery and related services" for a "pan-government collaborative framework for use by UK public sector bodies". This covers the events needs of organisations, including schools, the NHS and central government and local authorities.

The procurement body is looking for agencies with a diverse range of expertise – from event planning and management, through to installation and the supply of AV equipment. Event types span conferences, "Question Time-style" panel sessions, press events and workshops.

The tender document said: "Government departments have events requirements which span a variety of markets (financial, B2B, B2C, health, etc.), audiences (press, consumer, businesses, tourism, etc.) and across various locations (ranging from regional and national to overseas and international events)."

Some of the UK’s most prominent event professionals have thrown their weight behind airport expansion campaigners.
The Business Visits & Events Partnership (BVEP) has lent its support to the Let Britain Fly campaign after members of the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) joined organisations including the British Chambers of Commerce, British Hospitality Association, ExCeL London and the Institute of Directors in signing the lobby group's founding statement.
Let Britain Fly intends to lobby government to improve airport capacity and modernise existing infrastructure in London and the south east.
“The capacity of our airports is one of a series of barriers to growth in the UK winning more events business, so we’re delighted to put our support behind this campaign,” said Simon Hughes, BVEP vice chair. “Alongside Air Passenger Duty, the limitations of our airports are reducing the competitiveness of the UK in being an attractive location in which to hold international events and one where they would choose to return as leisure travellers.”

VisitBritain report forecasts huge increase in the economic impact of inbound visitors

New tourism research commissioned by VisitBritain is good news for the meetings and events industry, the organisation has said.

The report predicts that the tourism economy will grow 3.8 per cent per annum – faster than manufacturing, construction and retail. Inbound tourism is the driving force of growth, which will result in the sector being worth £257bn by 2025 - 10 per cent of UK GDP.

VisitBritain spokesman Mark De-Tor, said: “Unfortunately the report does not drill down into business travel, but of course these positive numbers will have a strong knock-on effect for the sector.”

‘Tourism: jobs and growth’, conducted by Deloitte, states that tourism currently supports 3 million jobs throughout the UK and an additional 175,000 jobs are predicted to be created by 2025.

Christopher Rodrigues, VisitBritain chairman, said: “Inbound tourism’s record performance since the Olympics bodes well for the future but to achieve the industry’s full potential we need to continue to raise our game, marry policy and marketing and promote Britain even more aggressively overseas.”

Rodrigues added that the UK should aim to attract more visitors from China, Russia, Brazil and India, who – according to the Hotel Price Index – are already among the highest spenders on hotel rooms. 

Travelodge, the UK’s leading budget hotel chain, has today announced the appointment of Peter Gowers as its new Chief Executive Officer to succeed Grant Hearn. Peter will start on the 25th of November 2013.

Peter Gowers joins Travelodge from Safestore Holdings plc, the UK’s largest self-storage operator, where he has served as Chief Executive Officer since 2011. Previously he held the role of Chief Executive, Asia-Pacific for InterContinental Hotels Group (“IHG”) where he oversaw more than 250 hotels with an excess of $1.5bn in annual hotel turnover and 60,000 hotel employees. Prior to being CEO of Asia-Pacific, Peter was Chief Marketing Officer of IHG from 2005-2007 where he led the worldwide marketing and sales team. 

Peter spent his early career at Bass PLC and has gained a broad experience in the leisure industry holding senior positions at IHG as well as its predecessor, Six Continents Hotels.

Brian Wallace, Chairman of Travelodge, said: “I am delighted to welcome Peter as the new CEO of Travelodge. Peter is a highly regarded senior executive, with extensive industry and market experience and expertise. His skills and knowledge will be a great asset in helping to further grow our business and to make Travelodge the best value hotel chain in the UK." 

He added: “Since joining Travelodge in 2003, Grant has done a tremendous job in more than doubling the size of the Company's portfolio and establishing the brand as a household name with an exceptional digital presence. Grant has built a remarkable team that, led by Peter, will now take the business on to even greater levels of success driven by meeting and exceeding guest expectations. On a personal level, I am extremely grateful for Grant's support since I became Chairman earlier this year.”

Peter Gowers said: “Travelodge is an iconic hotel brand and I am hugely excited by the opportunity to lead such a great business. I am delighted to be returning to the hotel industry and I look forward to working with the excellent team already in place to build on our current momentum and further grow the Travelodge brand.”

Grant Hearn will remain in the post for a further two weeks to assist the changeover. 

The meetings industry will see "moderate growth" in the UK and Europe in 2014, with a more optimistic outlook for the automotive, pharmaceutical and ICT sectors, according to an EIBTM report.

Speaking yesterday (19 November) at EIBTM 2013 in Barcelona, Rob Davidson, senior lecturer in event managment at the University of Greenwich, delivered his annual Trends report.

Key findings presented in the report included: a recovery in the corporate meeting sector; a significant increase in association conferences; a significant increase in optimism in the incentive travel sector; and an inversion of the global growth patterns seen since 2008, with advanced economies strengthening and emerging market economies slowing down.

He said: "There is an improvement in the global economy and a new optimism. When companies feel the economy has stabilised, they are much more likely to dip into their pockets. The recovery last year was fragile, but this year it has been slow but much more stable."

"The Eurozone countries are coming out of recession and there is a north-south divide, with northern countries doing much better.

"The BRIC economies – Brazil, Russia, India and China – have had a disappointing show in comparison to last year with growth slowing. However, they still have growth rates that we envy here in Europe."

On Thursday 14th November, SABA, the UK’s largest and most frequented serviced apartments networking event, took place at the recently expanded SilverDoor offices. The HBAA's Executive Director, Juliet Price, was invited to speak about the serviced apartment community.

The event was an opportunity for serviced apartment agents and providers to meet socially. Getting to know one another, exchange contacts and develop business relationships were the priorities of the night. With over 200 guests present, it was the largest attendance for a SABA event to date.

Minister of State for Europe, the Right Honourable David Lidington MP, stood alongside Managing Director Marcus Angell, Executive Commercial Director Chris Gee, and Business Partnerships Director Stuart Winstone, to officially open the expanded offices.

As guests collected their name badges on arrival, the question 'when your clients book a serviced apartment, what do you think is the most important facility for it to have out of the following?' was posed. The results were conclusive with 'Free Internet' taking 93 votes, 'Full Kitchen' taking 91, and 'Washing Machine' lagging behind with a meagre 12 votes. This wasn’t just the opinion of the UK audience, either.

International property operators from Belgium and the Netherlands, who were attending the event for the first time, were greeted with a warm welcome. Director of essa Consultancy Richard Majewski led the series of speeches that followed. Marcus Angell took to the stage to welcome everybody to SilverDoor. Juliet Price then spoke about the serviced apartment community, with Marcus Angell finally introducing David Lidington to regale the audience with stories of his European trips and business development experience.

Following the HBAA’s Annual Strategy Meeting, the association has released details of its plans for 2014. These will focus on increasing agent membership and growing the association’s presence and voice within the events industry.

The HBAA’s recently re-elected chairman, Chris Parnham, has revealed that the association will continue to work towards more training, relevant content at meetings, value for members and inclusion. Alongside this, the Executive Committee will focus its efforts on member recruitment, setting a membership increase target of 20%. As part of this drive to increase HBAA affiliates, the Executive Committee will participate in a week-long roadshow.

Chris commented: “We will be visiting our members at their offices, rather than always making them come to us. We’ll also host member recruitment events to encourage those who have not joined up yet to find out more about the HBAA.”

Collaboration will be a further key objective of the HBAA for 2014. The association already engages in partnerships with Eventia, Confex, The Meetings Show UK, BVEP, mia and MPI, with joint events and awards, and shared objectives. Juliet Price, the HBAA’s Executive Director, will spearhead this drive to increase collaboration.

In addition to strategic change, the HBAA will also be modernising its Code of Conduct and expanding its International Charter. The association will begin formal consultations to establish how membership may be extended to travel management companies (TMCs), who are now much more active within the events sector.

Parnham said: “Feedback from our members assures me that they like the changes we are making, and they feel that the association is fresher, more relevant, and is delivering more value. An effective industry association is not a club for a select group of members: it should be a voice to the industry, representing its members’ interests. My team and I have worked really hard this year to make all members feel included. The two-tier membership, giving agency members more rights of engagement with their venue counterparts, has been removed. Venue members may now chair committees and even be elected to the association’s Executive Committee.

“We are only just beginning, and the chance to do a second year as Chair is a terrific opportunity to make sure the changes implemented to date are locked down, and to continue on my promise to members to make the association more relevant and useful to them. We are a fresh, dynamic, relevant association with a voice that is provocative, meaningful, thoughtful and challenging. Our members love their HBAA, and it’s my job to make sure their passion, support, trust and commitment isn’t squandered or neglected. I take this job very seriously and remain, as always, here to be judged on success.

Event professionals attending the Eventia and HBAA ‘TOMS and Package Travel Regulations Reform Seminar’ at Saffery Champness HQ on Wednesday 13th November were told that the industry’s associations would work together to review the objectives of the past decade’s work on TOMS reform. 

David Bennett, travel VAT partner at Saffery Champness, and Chris Parnham, chairman of the HBAA, presented the issues behind the current European position on TOMS. Under the current HMRC agreement, TOMS cannot apply to a disclosed agency, and third party costs can be recovered from the client as a disbursement. TOMS can, however, apply to undisclosed agencies, according to the nature of the work undertaken. Yet VAT is only charged if the client and supplier are within the UK.

The existing ABTA, Eventia, HBAA, ETOA and GTMC proposals, which were put to the Treasury in 2010/2011, recommend the retention of TOMS, with a B2B ‘opt-in’ clause for administrative ease. Also included in this proposal is:

•    Apportioned margins to reflect the liability of the service provided
•    Fixed margin accounting as an option
•    Subjecting non-EU businesses to TOMS when selling EU travel to EU customers
•    Allowing an aggregated basis of calculation

Audience discussions indicated that UK agents welcome the flexibility of not being in TOMS, but also want competitors outside the EU to face the same issues: if business placed within the EU is subject to TOMS, it was asserted that agents would begin placing business outside of the single market.

The European Commission is understood to be keen to talk to interested parties ahead of new proposals on TOMS (reportedly in 2015), and with clear discontent regarding HMRC’s current positioning, it was decided that the event industry’s associations would meet to work towards an updated proposal for TOMS reform.

Incentive travel is on the rise and expected to increase further in 2014, according to the EIBTM 2013 Trends Watch Report.

Rob Davidson, senior lecturer in Events Management at the University of Greenwich, who conducted the report said: "Last year incentive travel had stabilised, but this year it has seen an increase as companies become more optimistic and realise this is a good time to motivate their sales staff.

"Corporates are choosing to travel further from home and more Americans are coming to Europe.

"Interesting destinations on the rise include Saudi Arabia, which is keen to make it’s mark on the meetings map, and Seoul has established a new policy to attract mega events to South Korea."

The report revealed an optimistic outlook for the meetings and events industry overall.

The report states: ‘A consensus is forming that, leading into 2014, meetings, events and business travel will continue to remain critical drivers assisting organisations in their efforts to reach their strategic business objectives and effectively communicate with their employees, customers and partners worldwide.'


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