Ian Edwards (pictured below), CEO ICC Wales and Celtic Manor Resort, shares his views on how to bring a new-build business events destination to market.
The new International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales) is due to open at Celtic Manor, Newport Wales, in 2019. The venue will provide Wales with a purpose-built convention centre for the first time. It will also put Wales as a business events destination firmly on the international map.
But how do you make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime moment? And how do you go about bringing a destination to market when there are already so many choices open to event planners throughout the world?
Recently, we were privileged to host Martin Sirk, CEO of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and had the opportunity to discuss these issues to him. What emerged from our conversations seemed to me to fall into three distinct areas.
First, getting clear on your vision and brand. It is very clear that Wales has an opportunity not just to open a state-of-the-art facility, but to promote the country as a whole. The right blend of both rational and emotional appeal, combined with a compelling story about your destination, can win the hearts and minds of event organisers from anywhere in the world. And as an emerging destination you also have the added allure of providing new experiences and new people to meet.
Second, galvanising local businesses, universities and government to support and leverage the wider economic benefits that business events can bring.
It’s well known that major conferences, meetings and events bring visitor spending and business to the local community and perhaps even repeat visits. But in today’s market, the most effective business events strategies are those that also pull together the promotion of inward investment, economic development and intellectual capital to the area.
When delegates arrive for a conference, they are also looking to increase their business, research or investment interest more widely into that country. The possibilities are seemingly endless, but the process needs to be as easy and as joined-up as possible. Everyone needs to understand what the country is trying to achieve and the part they can play in making it happen. We need to be one enthusiastic team, learning together and from each other.
Lastly, as an emerging destination, you have the advantage of being flexible and bespoke in how you host business events from the start. ‘Flexibility’ and ‘creativity’ are key words for today’s business event planner who is often facing their own internal pressures to achieve multiple objectives from ever-finite budgets. Researching and understanding each client’s aims in great detail is crucial and can make a big difference as to whether or not your destination is chosen from the wide range of options available.
As you would imagine, there are both opportunities and challenges to being an emerging destination.
There is perhaps a three-four year window of opportunity for destinations as ‘the new kid on the block’, after which they must rely on a track record of success.
I am determined that ICC Wales – and Wales more widely – will definitely make the most of the former to produce the latter.