Thursday, 29 December 2011

London's year as sporting host

As 2011 draws to a close, 2012 will truly be a year of sport for the UK capital.

But it's not only the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games that will have sports fans jumping for joy. There's a host of other sporting events planned, many of which will be held at official Olympic venues from January all the way through to Games time on 27 July.

Oympic test events and qualifiers will enable the public to experience sports ranging from gymnastics to diving whilst new fixtures for London include a Grand Sumo tournament, taking place at the Royal Albert Hall from 13-17 June.

The British Swimming Championships will take place at the Olympic Park Aquatic Centre from 3-12 March and a National Lottery Olympic Park Run will test the park's capacity for large crowds on 31 March.

High profile international events returning to London during Olympic year include an NFL clash at Wembley in October and the Heineken Cup Final at Twickenham on 19 May.

Tickets for the London Prepares series of Olympic test events can be purchased from Ticketmaster.

To download a full calendar of sporting activity in London during Olympic year, click here.

Friday, 11 November 2011

London wins bid to host 2017 Athletics World Championships

London has been chosen as the host city for the 2017 World Athletics Championships.
The International Association of Athletics Federations selected London ahead of Doha at a bid presentation in Monaco by 16 votes to 10, earlier today (Friday 11 November).
It will be the first time that the World Athletics Championships are to be held in the UK and marks the first major tournament confirmed for the Olympic Stadium post London 2012.
Speaking from Monaco, The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "Despite an excellent challenge from Doha, the London team put together a cracking bid which has paid off. With the 2017 championships now in the diary, next summer’s London Games is just the start of a long and active life for our magnificent stadium."
Over the last decade, London has transformed itself to become recognised globally as a leading city for major sporting events. Other successful bids for major sporting events post 2012 include the 2013 UEFA Champions League Final, the 2013 ITU World Championship Series Triathlon Grand Final and the 2015 Canoe Slalom World Championships.
Based on the success of London 2012’s International Inspiration Project, London 2017 has revealed the international legacy programme that will now be launched following the city's successful bid to host the 2017 World Athletics Championships. 
LEAP 2017 has been designed to engage two million children in athletics across 17 developing countries over four years.
A huge congratulations to everyone involved with the successful London 2017 bid.

Monday, 7 November 2011

London's sporting legacy is put to the vote this week in Monaco

In Monaco, on 11 November, the 27-strong IAAF voting panel will decide between London and Doha as the host city for the 2017 athletics World Championships.

In October, my bosses at London & Partners hosted the evaluation committee of the world governing body for track and field, on a two-day visit to the UK capital to assess our bid to stage this prestigious event.

Whilst in town, IAAF Senior Vice-President, Bob Hersh heaped praise on London's ‘world-class’ stadium. Importantly, he also lauded the city's passion and commitment for hosting a successful World Championships.

Recognising our passion and commitment for staging major sporting events is important for London. The city takes sport seriously. It has been working hard to build a sporting legacy that goes beyond next summer’s Olympic Games and includes a £30million Sporting Legacy Fund to attract grass-roots participation into every bid secured.

London's success stories to date include securing the 2013 Triathlon World Championship Grand Final in Hyde Park and the 2015 Canoe Slalom World Championships, which was the first major event to be confirmed for an Olympic venue after the Games.

Other bids currently on the table and awaiting outcomes include a Track Cycling World Cup in 2014/15, the 2015 Hockey European Championships, the 2016 Swimming European Championships and the Table Tennis World Championships in 2017.

This year, London has hosted the Yonex BWF World Badminton Championships at Wembley Arena and one of the seven-legs of the Triathlon World Championship Series.

Individually, these two events showcased London to a far reaching global fan-base. Combined, they generated more than £5million of economic impact.

London also staged the UEFA Champions League final at Wembley Stadium in May this year. A crowd of 87,695 well behaved football fans from Spain and Manchester created a carnival atmosphere that was supplemented by a week-long Champions Festival in Hyde Park.

According to a report backed by MasterCard, the football match itself was worth around £326million, which included an economic windfall for London of €52million generated through spending in restaurants, bars and at the stadium.

London’s reward for the spectacular success of the Champions League final is to host the event again in 2013. It will be a record seventh time the match has been staged in one venue.

London will also stage the 2013 UEFA Women’s Champions League final and the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress in the days leading up to the final.

The UK capital appeals to the American version of football as well. On Sunday, 23 October, at Wembley Stadium, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took on the Chicago Bears in the last of a three-season NFL International Series game agreement.

The popularity of American Football in the UK and Europe has rocketed ever since the Giants played the Dolphins in 2007. Over half a million people applied for tickets for each of the subsequent three seasons.

London sees no reason why its association with the NFL should end here and even harbours aspirations to stage a Super Bowl final one day.

Right now though, everyone is focused on this Friday's announcement where, once-again, a committee has to decide upon a host city for a major sporting event.

According to a ‘Global Major Events - 2012 & Beyond’ survey, revealed at SportAccord back in April, a World Athletics Championships was voted the second most popular sporting event to attract consumers into London. The Greatest Show on Earth was, of course, voted top.

Let’s hope, come Friday, there’s two upcoming reasons a new generation of UK athletes can become inspired.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

BT British Olympic Ball raises £700,000 for Team GB

The British Olympic Association (BOA) has confirmed that the 2011 BT British Olympic Ball, which took place last Friday (7th October) at Olympia in Kensington, raised over £700,000 for Team GB, far exceeding the fundraising target for the event.

The star-studded, sell out evening, which I attended as a guest of EC&O Venues, saw more than 2,000 guests from the world of sport and entertainment rubbing shoulders with Olympic legends and Team GB hopefuls in Olympia’s stunning Grand Hall.

In total, the winners of over 140 Olympic medals, including more than 80 gold medals, were present in the room, making it a truly unique and special celebration of British Olympic success.

Among those to walk the glittering gold carpet were three-times cycling Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins, 400m hurdles World Champion Dai Greene, triathlon world number one and two Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, Olympic rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave and a host of celebrities including Downtown Abbey’s Dan Stevens, former Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm, model Nell McAndrew and singer Katie Melua.

HRH Princess Anne was guest of honour on the evening. An Olympian herself, the Princess Royal delivered a speech calling on the entire nation to unite in support of the greatest team Britain and Northern Ireland will ever have sent to an Olympic Games.

As part of the evening’s entertainment, guests were treated to performances by Sir Tom Jones and Tinchy Stryder. The event was produced by agency Fireball. The menu was devised by Michelin starred Executive Chef Tom Aikens.

Hosted by Stephen Fry and Miranda Hart, the evening allowed guests the opportunity to bid on once in a lifetime London 2012 hospitality packages donated by Prestige Ticketing, including the chance to watch the finals sessions for track cycling in the Velodrome, swimming in the Aquatics Centre and perhaps the most coveted seats of all: the men’s 100m final.

Andy Hunt, Team GB, Chef de Mission and BOA Chief Executive said: “The 2011 BT British Olympic Ball was bigger and better than ever and we are delighted with the tremendous level of support expressed for Team GB from the 2,200 guests in attendance. Raising nearly three-quarters of a million pounds from this event is a fantastic outcome for Team GB and we are really grateful to everyone who supported and participated in the event.”


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

London's events legacy revealed at Beyond 2012

London’s events industry gathered at the BFI IMAX on 19 September to hear an update on legacy plans following the 2012 Olympic Games.

Three speakers representing the Mayor’s office, London & Partners and the Olympic Park Legacy Company briefed 500 delegates about the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s event spaces and the continued efforts to pitch for major sporting events beyond 2012, including the World Athletics Championships in 2017.

Clive Little, Director of Events and Programming at the Olympic Park Legacy Company said: “By 2016, we’re aiming to see more than 2,000 events held each year in the Park. The south end will have a real focus on sport and entertainment and include areas such as a 2,000sqm event lawn and possible temporary venue for exhibitions and conferences. In total, there’s potential for spaces of up to 60,000 capacity across the Park.”

Little added that the 3,500-seat Aquatic Centre could be transformed into a dry venue courtesty of rising floors which reduce the depth of water in the pool, and that the Orbit sculpture next to the Stadium could host events for up to 300 people on its viewing platforms. 

“In October, we’ll consult with the events sector and ask what they might want to do at the park so people are engaged in the plans,” Little continued. “While we’re still in the strategic planning phase, we can adapt our offer to suit the response.”

The Beyond 2012 event was hosted by Unique Venues of LondonLondon & Partners and the International Special Events Society

Iain Edmondson, Head of the Major Events Team at London & Partners discussed the capital’s plans to pitch for future sporting events and congresses. Then, Dan Ritterband, Mayor Boris Johnson’s Director of Marketing confirmed that the Mayor’s Office wholeheartedly supports the work being done to bring mayor events into the capial and is working on a funding model to ensure London remains competitive with other nations. 

To hear a snippet of Dan Ritterband’s address to delegates at Beyond 2012, click here

Limited edition London: What to expect in 2012

I was asked recently to write an advertorial for a Spanish consumer travel title on what to expect in the UK capital during 2012.

Seeing as the piece is being translated into Spanish, I thought I'd reproduce it for you here in its original written language form....

It’s a magical time to be in London. As the UK capital prepares to welcome the Greatest Show on Earth in the summer of 2012, the Olympic spirit can already be felt on every corner of every street.

An electric atmosphere of celebration and togetherness is building and London invites you to come and experience the city as you've never seen it before.

Attractions, hotels, bars and restaurants are rolling out the red carpet and visitors are about to discover a host of unique experiences that will only be available in the run up to the London 2012 Games.

From September through to June, London will be awash with festivals, exhibitions and major events that will bring colour, culture and creativity to these famous streets.

Before the world’s elite sportsmen and sportswomen go for gold in the Olympic Stadium, London will first celebrate The Queen’s Jubilee. After the spectacular wedding of her grandson earlier this year, it will be the turn of Her Majesty the Queen to take centre stage as the whole country celebrates 60 years of her reign across a four-day weekend at the beginning of June.

One event that is sure to form a key highlight of the Jubilee celebrations will see The Queen lead a flotilla of 1,000 boats along the River Thames. Fireworks and music from the past six decades will accompany the procession and more than a million people will line the banks of the Thames in celebration as the flotilla sails past.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee festivities will continue throughout the year as well, marked by a series of exhibitions and events.

The National Portrait Gallery will stage The Queen: Art and Image from 17 May to 21 October whilst photographs taken by former royal photographer Cecil Beaton will be on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Visitors planning to come to London during January, April or May are also invited to book guided tours of the beautiful and opulent State Rooms at Buckingham Palace whilst The Queen takes her residency at Sandringham and Windsor.

Meanwhile, Shakespeare’s birthday, which falls on 23 April, will be celebrated by a kaleidoscope of 38 international theatre companies staging each one of William Shakespeare’s 38 plays in a different language at the world renowned Globe Theatre.

This series of plays will be the most ambitious multilingual Shakespearean project ever attempted and presents a fantastic opportunity to view Shakespeare in Spanish, at The Globe - an authentic restored theatre from the time of the Bard.

Visitors can embrace the multiculturalism that makes London one of the most diverse and fascinating cities on earth by planning a trip that includes the Chinese New Year celebrations in Trafalgar Square on 29 January. Or why not plan your visit around World Pride 2012, promoting gay and lesbian issues with two weeks of festivities and cultural activities during June and July.

London’s museums and galleries (many of which are free to enter) will also be putting on a show throughout the year.

Not-to-be missed highlights will include Damien Hirst at Tate Modern from April until September, Pablo Picasso’s lifelong connection with Britain explored at Tate Britain from February to 15 July and Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan, which runs at the National Gallery until 5 February 2012.

There is no doubt that 2012 will be an Olympic year for London but it also promises to serve up a host of limited edition, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that visitors won’t find anywhere else. The entirity of 2012 in London is sure to be more magical than ever before. So don’t miss out. For more information and to plan a trip, visit

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

How to win events business during London 2012

The London 2012 Olympic Games will bring some 100 private sector sponsors, 26 international federations, 205 competing nations, 560 domestic sporting bodies and the world’s media to the UK capital. Not to mention a host of consumer brands looking for an unofficial association with ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ plus a range of local businesses, all eager to harness some of that Olympic spirit to motivate staff and win new business contracts.

With just over 300 days remaining until the Opening Ceremony, a number of venues and agencies have already secured events and hospitality contracts. However, there are many others who still strive for their opportunity to work with an Olympic related client.

Zanine Adams, head of sales and Event Solutions at London & Partners is keen to stress to those who are still searching for London 2012 business opportunities that they should remain focused and proactive.

“Venues should be looking at the bigger picture and away from simply marketing themselves as potential hospitality houses for National Olympic Committees," she says. "We believe there will only be around 60 of these NOC hubs as many countries have decided to adopt a national presence in London and form part of an International House, West African House, Latin American House or Oceania House for example. Agencies and venues need to assess all activation opportunities and be aware that deals will continue to be done right until the last few days of the countdown to the Games.”

To help events businesses consider the full range of opportunities available to them, I have worked with Zanine to compile the following advice:

1) Inspire
Do you have a clear London 2012 business message? Is there a dedicated area on your website providing details of Olympic packages? Ensure you have available itineraries, sensible rates and packages and that they are being marketed to their full capacity both online and offline.

2) Look closer to home
Have you consulted your regular client-base or local businesses? It’s likely that many companies are only starting to consider their Olympic action plan now. Discuss ways in which you can help to entertain their guests or motivate internal staff with or without access to tickets.

3) Partner Up
Is there an associated business which would strengthen your offer? Consider partnering up with a hotel, meetings venue or restaurant or team building company, agency or entertainment supplier and go to market with a complete package.

4) Set your sights
Many international sponsors are planning Wave Programmes that will see them fly guests into the UK capital on three-day rotations. Agencies are therefore in need of incentive and itinerary ideas. Can you offer reception space, dining amenities or transport?

5) Think laterally
Does your venue’s roof terrace provide a stunning media backdrop? Maybe, your out-of-town location would provide a good stop-off lunch point for airport transfers? Just because your venue space has always been used in a particular way, why not do something different and transform that courtyard into a pop-up restaurant or offer a brand gallery space where once sat meetings space.

6) 2012 lasts longer than a fortnight
There are so many fantastic events taking place throughout next year including the Cultural Olympiad, Charles Dickens’ 200th anniversary, the Shakespeare Festival and the four-day Diamond Jubilee. Do you have offers and packages aimed at driving business around these Olympic alternatives?

7) Don’t forget about the Paralympics
What can you offer those brands, sponsors, media and athletes involved with the Paralympic Games? Do you have dedicated Paralympic packages and rates in place? How are you marketing your offer? The Paralympic Games will afford a large amount of business opportunities, some of which will require specialist packages and bespoke offers.

8) Communicate
If you’re not using social media channels to build relationships and promote your offer, you can guarantee that your competitors will be. Now is the time to speak to your supplier network and industry peers. Share knowledge, discuss ideas and form partnerships wherever possible.

9) Stay focused
Lead times have grown shorter and the Olympic Games has always traditionally turned into somewhat of a sprint towards the summer. Now is the time to focus on helping clients to make decisions through consultation and keeping yourselves visible. If decisions are to be left until the last minute, those companies will need to remember you and your offer in a positive light.

10) Keep abreast of developments
There are a number of conferences, exhibitions, websites and magazines whose remit is to help you make the most of the Olympic opportunity. Engage and embrace them all. London & Partners has teamed up with The International Special Events Society and Unique Venues of London to host one such event on 19 September at the BFI IMAX cinema where we shall be discussing London 2012 and Beyond.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Giants of Badminton

Two chalk giants had a game of badminton on Primrose Hill on 13 July. Their giant shuttlecock then set off around London to promote the YONEX BWF World Badminton Championships, taking place at Wembley Arena from 8-14 August.

The 50 foot badminton players were created by specialist environmental agency Curb, using natural chalk. Drawing began at 6am and took four hours to complete.

After leaving Primrose Hill, I followed the giant shuttlecock, manoeuvred by humans, weighing over 30kgs and measuring almost 10 feet tall, over to Regent Street in London's West End.

As it travelled from Oxford Circus tube station down towards Piccadilly Circus, I took up a position on the roof of the office block opposite the Omega store to shoot video footage and capture some great shots of one of London's most iconic streets.

This vantage point is sure to feature as a prime broadcast location during London 2012.

The YONEX BWF World Badminton Championships, hosted in Wembley Arena from the 8-14th August, provides an opportunity to see the world’s top Badminton players in the same venue as the 2012 Games a year early.

All my video footage and images from the day can be seen on my dedicated Facebook group for the World Championships. The two viral videos are also embedded below.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

London 2012: A V&E How-to guide on Hospitality at the Games

In the Summer issue of Square Meal Venues & Events I've written an in-depth piece on everything you need to know in order to plan hospitality around the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Below are some key questions answered and a section on five things buyers need to know.

For the full six-page article, jump to page 179 in the digi-mag.

Key London 2012 Hospitality Questions Answered…

What can we expect from the catering at official Prestige hospitality?
We’re told that the food served to corporates and their guests will be high-quality British produce, with an emphasis on provenance and sourcing food from multi-generational providers. Expect this ‘Great British Experience’ to be a big part of the sell – the country will be basking in patriotism after the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Prestige is currently in the process of appointing catering companies for each location, and promises there won’t be a celebrity chef in sight.

Why is there no hospitality being offered at venues such as Lord’s (archery)?
Any venue with poor sight lines to the action or deemed to have limited group appeal has been withdrawn from offering official hospitality packages.

What about all the fighting and table tennis action happening at ExCeL?
The likelihood is that Prestige Ticketing will come up with packages for the Olympic action at ExCeL as the venue has been told it can’t produce its own. No package details were available at time of press.

Will corporates be able to access the Olympic Park for picnic entertaining during the Games?
It is anticipated that there will be restrictions put in place to prevent access to the Park without an event ticket, but this may simply involve buying day passes. Agencies are also advising clients that restrictions on taking alcohol and food into the Park may also be imposed to protect sponsorship rights holders. That said, Square Meal V&E understands that LOCOG is looking into granting permission to provide non-sponsor-branded food within the Park after complaints in Beijing that the only snack available was McDonald’s.

Which brands are likely to feature heavily on the hospitality circuit?
The Worldwide Olympic Partners signed up for London 2012 are Coca-Cola, Acer, Atos Origin, Dow Chemical Company, GE, McDonald’s, Omega, Panasonic, Procter and Gamble, Samsung and Visa. LOCOG then has seven domestic Tier One Partners - Adidas, BMW, BP, British Airways, BT, EDF and Lloyds TSB. And seven domestic Tier Two Supporters – Adecco, ArcelorMittal, Cadbury, Cisco, Deloitte, Thomas Cook and UPS. With a further 24 domestic Tier Three suppliers and providers and Sainsbury's signed up as the one domestic Tier One Paralympic Games Partner, there is sure to be a host of activity from everyone involved.

Will Olympics hospitality cause a decline in the sale of packages at other sporting events such as Wimbledon?
Ted Walker of hospitality agency Keith Prowse is confident that there will be no impact on hospitality at annual blue riband sporting events. ‘The fact is that we are blessed with a decade of iconic sporting events for which the demand for hospitality will be high. It started with the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and will include the Rugby World Cup in 2015 and the Rugby League World Cup in 2013. Clients are allocating their budget to buy into not just London 2012 but the whole decade of sporting excellence in the UK.’

Should companies be worried about how the Bribery Act will impact on their 2012 hospitality plans?
No. Section Nine of the Act makes it clear that corporate hospitality, which seeks to improve the image of a commercial organisation better to present products and services, or establish cordial relations, is an established and important part of doing business. It is not the intention of the Act to criminalise such behaviour.

Things buyers need to know…
1. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) cracked down on black market ticketing at Beijing, with many companies left stunned when they discovered they’d purchased unofficial packages. London 2012 will impose even tighter controls.

2. Prestige Ticketing is using three authorised sales agents in the UK. They are Sportsworld (Tel: 01235 555 844), Keith Prowse (Tel: 020 3137 7420) and IMG (Tel: 020 8233 5854).

3. Re-selling Olympic tickets is illegal and applicants who receive balloted tickets will not be allowed to re-sell them on eBay or as part of unofficial hospitality offerings. Anyone caught illegally trading could be hit with a fine of up to £20,000.

4. When buying packages for team sports such as football, hockey, volleyball and handball, be aware that there is no way of knowing at this stage when your country of choice will compete.

5. A levy placed on Prestige Ticketing hospitality will pay for a Ticketshare scheme, enabling 125,000 school children to experience the Games. A further 50,000 tickets will also be distributed to schools across the UK under the same guidelines and 25,000 tickets will be allocated to other goodwill causes such as Tickets for Troops.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

See sold out Olympic sport one year early...

London will be warming up for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in August by staging the BWF World Badminton Championships and ITU World Championship Series Triathlon.

Both Championship events will form part of an exciting week of international sport, with spectators having the chance to see the Triathlon for free and Badminton for as little as £10.

The BWF World Badminton Championships will take place at Wembley Arena from 8-14 August and the ITU World Championship Series Triathlon will be in Hyde Park on 6 and 7 August.

More than 1.8 million people applied for tickets in the first-round of the 2012 Olympic ticket phase and both Badminton and the Triathlon sold out. Next month however, Londoners and visitors to the UK capital will have the opportunity to see the top athletes from each sport in action, with less than one year to go before they battle it out during London 2012.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said: “For these two great international events to be sold out already is glorious testimony to the huge sporting enthusiasm that exists in the capital and throughout the UK.  We couldn’t send out a better message to the world's sporting federations that if you want to fill seats, hold your event in London. And I am particularly excited that our world famous Wembley arena is hosting its first ever World Badminton Championship, a perfect dry run for the 2012 Olympic Badminton events."

Held at Wembley Arena (the venue for Badminton and Rhythmic Gymnastics at the London 2012 Games), this will be the third time England has hosted the World Badminton Championships, but only the first time they have been staged in London.

The London leg of the ITU World Championship Series Triathlon will be held for the third time in Hyde Park and feature the world number 1 triathlete, GB’s Alistair Brownlee.
Access for the event, also supported by the Mayor of London and part of UK Sport’s National Lottery funded World Class Events Programme, is free to spectators throughout the weekend.

Iain Edmondson, Head of Major Events at London & Partners added: “The Badminton and the Triathlon world championship events signify key milestones for London as an ever growing sports events destination. Both events feature globally recognised and highly popular sports which have chosen London as host for their world championships. These events not only give us the invaluable opportunity to learn how we can host other major events after 2012 but also give young people in London more chances to be inspired by top class sport.”

For more information on The Yonex BWF World Badminton Championships at Wembley Arena, join my Facebook fan site or visit the official website.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Nice day for a Royal Wedding...

Speaking as someone who once strained filter coffee through a pair of stockings belonging to a friend’s wedding outfit, (it seemed a good idea in the absence of a coffee percolator), I wasn’t that concerned with the finer details of Kate Middleton’s dress on her big day.

My take on the Royal Wedding was how London, as a city, would perform, hosting the first major event in a series which, over the next 18 months, will include the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games.

With an estimated two billion worldwide television viewers and one million spectators on the streets of the UK capital, the day went off seamlessly well.

Even the sun shone, despite every weather report predicting rain.

And if that minor miracle wasn’t enough, there was also a ‘Good Service’ reported throughout the day on every London Underground line. I know!

As the world witnessed the wedding guests arriving at Westminster Abbey, I was mingling with the crowds in St James’s Park, taking photos which I hope capture the colour and character of the day.

My base was the London Media Centre at St Ermin’s Hotel.
The four-star hotel next to St James’s Park has just re-opened following a £30m refurbishment and it’s looking really smart…. not as smart as David Beckham in his wedding clobber mind, but well worth checking out nonetheless...

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Events and hospitality are aiding economic recovery

On 10 March, my article on the value of corporate hospitality and events appeared on the centre pages of the Times newspaper. Published in conjunction with Raconteur Media, I am now able to post it here, in its original form, with kind permissions.

If you would like to access the entire supplement with two further articles by me, please click here.

The UK’s events and hospitality industry is a major contributor to the domestic economy. Its tentacles extend into areas of retail, tourism, sport and leisure and its extensive supply chain consists of catering, farming, floristry, logistics, production, venue management, entertainment, staffing, accommodation and many other small-to-medium sized British businesses.

According to a lobbying body called the Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP), the core of the sector is worth £36.1billion to the country’s wealth.

The BVEP is chaired by Michael Hirst, OBE. He says: “It’s a vibrant part of the visitor economy but also has an active role in the creative industries, trade development and in encouraging cultural appreciation.”

The conference and business events market on its own contributes £18.8billion. This includes spend at venues and in the wider destination by delegates and organisers before, during and after an event.

Industry association Eventia arrived at this figure after conducting its 2010 UK Events Market Trends Survey. The annual survey is based on data supplied by 403 venues from across the UK. Further key findings show that 94 million people attended an estimated 1.32 million events in 2009 and that hotels currently hold the majority (61 per cent) of all business events in Britain.

The BVEP calculates that, exhibitions, conferences, meetings, corporate hospitality and incentive travel, together form an economic contribution of £30.3billion. The remaining £5.8billion is made up from sports events (£2.3billion), music events (£1.4billion), festivals and cultural events (£1.1billion), plus other outdoor events (£1billion).

All these event types contribute significantly to tourism, creative enterprise, trade and export development, as well as to the exchange of information and knowledge and to community cohesion. By bolting on the hospitality sector’s far reaching services such as restaurants, contract catering, hotels and other accommodation providers, consultancy Oxford Economics estimates that the overall economic impact could be closer to £46billion.

Mike Kershaw, chairman of event services firm the Concerto Group says: “Events are one of the most efficient means of keeping money within the UK economy. Retail spend has maybe a three or four-time multiplier before it leaves the country. But spending money on an event will see transactions multiply along a more extensive and predominantly British supply chain. With 20 per cent VAT on every transaction heading back into government coffers, plus the amount of people being kept in employment, the hospitality and events industry should be championed, when instead it is often thought of as frivolous.”

In an independent study carried out last year on behalf of the British Hospitality Association (BHA) - a trade body, which includes event management within its representation - Oxford Economics determined that the wider hospitality and events industry directly contributes 2.44 million jobs and another 675,000 jobs through multiplier effects along the supply chain. Two-thirds of these multiplier jobs involve the manufacture of food, beverages and tobacco, agriculture and business services.

The BVEP says that there are some 550,000 people employed by more than 25,000 businesses with a core remit to stage or supply events. These businesses include event management agencies, venues, suppliers and destination management companies.
“The sector is resilient and events provide real recreational and motivational opportunities for communities,” says Hirst. “During the recession for example, whilst corporate meetings inevitably fell back in line with lower levels of business activity, attendance at UK festivals, sporting, cultural and music events grew by up to 20 per cent.”

The BHA states that, with the wider total of 2.44 million jobs representing around 8 per cent of total employment, this makes the hospitality economy the UK’s fifth biggest industry in employment terms. It places it ahead of other broad sectors such as financial services, transport and construction, and gives it a similar scale to education.

Like the BVEP, the BHA is also focused on forming closer links with government, in order to achieve a shared goal of sustainable economic growth.

“Given the right framework, there is real opportunity for hospitality economy jobs in Britain to rise to 2.76 million by 2015 and 3.09 million jobs by 2020,” says BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim. “Hospitality and events create jobs at local level and impact upon regional regeneration schemes. At a time when the Government’s spending review has lead to redundancies and job losses, here is an industry that really can make a difference.”

At the end of last year, the BHA put forward a partnership proposal to government, which asks for, amongst other things, a permanent cross-cabinet committee for hospitality and tourism.

Ibrahim says: “Our fragmented industry is affected by policy decisions taken across many government departments. By engaging senior cabinet ministers, this will help to ensure that the decisions of individual departments do not hinder David Cameron’s pledge to make Britain one of the top five tourist destinations in the world as well as the industry’s potential contribution to job creation across the UK.”

In June 2010, the opening of the UK capital’s International Convention Centre, the ICC London ExCeL immediately created 1,000 new jobs in this regeneration area of east London.

The venue’s director of conferences and events James Rees anticipates that a further 3,200 local jobs will be created as a knock-on effect of the ICC by the end of this year.

“The build represented a private investment of £165million but the projected economic benefit stands at £1.6billion by the end of 2011,” he says.

Both the ICC London ExCeL and the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in the heart of Westminster work closely with convention bureau Visit London to pitch for large international congresses, which bring delegates to the UK capital from all over the world.

Ernest Vincent, chief executive of the QEII Conference Centre estimates his venue contributes around £200million a year to the visitor economy.

“The role events play in the development of the tourism industry needs much more recognition and encouragement. It can readily be one of the engines to rebalance our national economy,” he says.

But it’s not just purpose -built venues that rely on the full impact of event spend. Visitor attractions, heritage venues, museums, art galleries, stadia and a host of other dual-use facilities all depend heavily on the business of events.

The Concerto Group’s Kershaw says: “Where would London’s museums be without the revenue generated from holding corporate and private events? At the Government’s door with cap-in-hand, that’s where. The business model for hotels doesn’t stack up with beds alone. They all need conference and banqueting business to survive. And I don’t believe there is a single restaurant in London that could exist without hosting corporate dining and events.”

Kershaw’s claims are backed up by Lisa Hatswell, the corporate sales manager of the EDF Energy London Eye and chair of marketing consortium, Unique Venues of London (UVL).

She says: “Our 73 members collectively generated £68million from events held in 2010. With a mixture of charities, free public attractions and heritage sites, many rely on a secondary events revenue stream to maintain their architecturally renowned buildings, grounds or exhibits.”

Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, the Victoria & Albert Museum and ZSL London Zoo are all UVL members.

Charlotte Winship is events manager at Kensington Palace, which is managed by independent charity Historic Royal Palaces. She says: “In hiring venues like ours, clients are providing valuable support to the conservation of our country’s heritage. We receive no government or Crown funding and therefore rely on income derived from visitors, donors and venue hire. All revenue received from venue hire directly contributes to the conservation of Kensington Palace.”

Next year, events and hospitality will play a major role in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It’s reassuring to know that not only does Britain already have a gold medal-standard industry, but that its impact is driving the country’s economic recovery as well.