Monday, 30 November 2009

A decade to be done with?

As we enter into the final month of the Noughties, most events businesses will be glad to see the back of the opening decade of the 21st Century.

For many, it began with the irrational fear that the Millennium Bug would wipe computer systems off the face of the world. It will end with the very real threat that event budgets, purchasing power and creative execution will never be the same again.

In event terms, the Noughties will be remembered as a decade when humans were given the power to stop talking all together. Instead, we could tweet, poke, MSN or Skype. How event management companies adapt and integrate this communication revolution into their face-to-face strategies will determine their success in years to come.

In world affairs, the Noughties introduced us to terms like global warming, tsunami, Jihad and Jedward. At first we were too scared to travel, then we were too green to travel and now we are too cash-strapped to travel.

'Staycation', 'carbon footprint', 'procurement' and 'phoenixing' are all words that event and incentive planners would rather consign to the archives. Instead, these words are now cemented into language by Wikipedia editors and for a while, resulted in pretty decent Scrabbulous scores.

In Milan last week, I chaired a conference round-table discussion between event agencies from France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Portugal. In front of a European audience of around 200 suppliers, venues, agencies and planners, we discussed if the events industry would ever be the same again.

The outcome across Europe, as you may expect, was not wholly positive but, there were some things to look forward to once this decade of death and destruction is done with.

Hardship brings forth collaboration and entrepreneurship so creativity will win out in the end. Client relationships are more important than budgetary spend and so, business will grow more personal as networks grow ever more promiscuous. The economy will recover (the majority forecasting green shoots towards the end of 2010) and reckless bankers will be prevented from ever bringing us to the verge of bankruptcy again. And, despite all the options to the contrary, people across Europe still prefer to do business face-to-face. Besides which, here in the UK we have the Olympic Games to look forward to!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Westfield welcomes the BT Visit London Awards

Whilst most of the country were out celebrating the discovery of Guy Fawkes sitting on twenty barrels of gunpowder in a cellar under the Houses of Parliament, London’s tourism and events industry came together at Westfield Shopping Centre to celebrate the 2009 Visit London Awards, sponsored by BT.

Staging an awards ceremony in the heart of the capital’s newest retail centre, with the shops remaining open until mid-way through the awards, was always going to draw a crowd.

But what if guests disappeared during the pre-awards drinks reception to grab a bargain? Had we been asked to don black-tie just so store security could recognise and return us to our seats should the urge to begin our Christmas shopping early grow to strong? And what would have happened if one of the actual shoppers that stopped to peer down on us from the balconies above had suffered a fit of excitement at the mere sight of host Neil Fox, outstanding achievement award winner Tony Hadley or cater Rhubarb’s amazing sticky toffee pudding?

I suspect that, at times, the 700 guests gathered at tables in a basement mezzanine area at the heart of Westfield, probably felt a little exposed to an over excited housewife throwing her La Senza purchase off the balcony in the direction of Foxy.

Heavens forbid, a depressed shopaholic X-Factor fan should have decided that this was the perfect moment to end it all and, in the same final breath, extract revenge for Britain’s Got The Pop Factor….And Possibly A New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice.

Thankfully however, the shoppers on the balcony above simply looked on with mild curiosity as London’s attractions, people and businesses were rewarded for their hard work and dedication.

This was my first visit to Westfield. It’s a truly modern and first-class retail complex and made for a uniquely fitting setting for the annual leisure and business tourism awards. I can’t wait for Westfield Stratford to open closer to my doorstep in 2011.

Congratulations to all the winners of the 2009 Visit London Awards. The full list is outlined below:

Outstanding Achievement Award
Sponsored by BT
Tony Hadley, lead singer of Spandau Ballet
Visitor Attraction of the Year
Kindly supported by Visa
Gold: National Maritime Museum
 Silver: ZSL London Zoo
Bronze: Imperial War Museum London
Best Tourism Experience 
Sponsored by Smiles of London
Gold: National Maritime Museum for International Year of Astronomy 2009 at the Royal Observatory Greenwich
 Silver: Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms 
Bronze: BBC Tours
Best Consumer Event of the Year 
Sponsored by Cake
Gold: Greenwich+Docklands International Festival
Silver: Winter Wonderland 
Bronze: Westminster Council for West End Live
Best Corporate Event of the Year
 Sponsored by Conference & Incentive Travel
Gold: ExCeL London for The London Summit; Growth, Stability & Jobs
 Silver: The Brewery for Glaston-Brewery
 Bronze: Maybourne Hotel Group for Event Organisers Party at The Berkeley 6th April 2009
Business Venue of the Year 
Sponsored by Confex Group
Gold: ExCeL London 
Silver: Natural History Museum 
Bronze: Cavendish Conference Venues
Small Hotel/B&B of the Year 
Sponsored by SML Marketing & Events
Gold: Bingham 
Silver: The Colonnade 
Bronze: SACO Holborn/SACO Serviced Apartments
Large Hotel of the Year
 Sponsored by OMD
Gold: Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel 
Silver: InterContinental London Park Lane 
Bronze: The Athenaeum
Budget Accommodation of the Year
Sponsored by
Gold: Generator Hostel London 
Silver: Palmers Lodge Boutique Backpackers 
Bronze: Think Apartments Limited
Outstanding Customer Service Award
 Sponsored by British Airways
Gold: The Operations team at The Cavendish Hotel London 
Silver: The Meetings & Events team at Royal College of Physicians 
Bronze: Nicholas Babbs at National Maritime Museum
Sports Tourism Award 
Sponsored by BT

Gold: England and Wales Cricket Board for ICC World Twenty20 England 2009
 Silver: Arsenal Football Club, Emirates Stadium for Emirates Cup 2008 
Bronze: Chelsea Football Club for Chelsea Football Club Stadium Tours & Museum
Sustainable Tourism Award 
Sponsored by Heathrow Express
Gold: Cavendish Conference Venues
 Silver: ExCeL London 
Bronze: The Cavendish Hotel London
Accessible Tourism Award 
Sponsored by OpenLondon
Gold: St Martin-in-the-Fields
 Silver: Greenwich+Docklands Festivals 
Bronze: The British Postal Museum & Archive
Best Gastronomic Experience 
Sponsored by London Restaurant Festival
Gold: Bingham
 Silver: Paternoster Chop House
 Bronze: Vinopolis
Marketing/PR Campaign of the Year
 Sponsored by Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Gold: Natural History Museum for Darwin Exhibition 
Silver: Historic Royal Palaces: Tower of London and Hampton Court Palaces for Henry 500 - Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill and Henry VIII: Heads and Hearts 
Bronze: Westfield for the launch of Westfield London
People's Choice Awards
London Evening Standard's Best Family Fun 
Wicked – The Musical
London Evening Standard's Best London for Free Experience 
Natural History Museum
Kiss 100's Hottest Music Event
 West End Live
Magic 105.4's London Hero 
Emma De Souza