The inaugural Business of Events Wales ran from 4-5 October at Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales.
The event provided a forum for senior figures in the UK business events community to meet, learn and share ideas about the future of sector. A key focus was on the opening of new venue ICC Wales inside the Celtic Manor grounds, and how it can act as a catalyst for business.
Speakers included Ben Goedegebuure of Maritz Global Events, who took a look at Wales from an international perspective, as well as Heather Lishman of the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers.
Both reiterated that the key to success at ICC Wales will be collaboration – between all the associations and bodies gathered at the event, as well as between buyers, press, organisers and delegates.
Goedegebuure commented that ICC Wales already has the infrastructure in place to support large scale events, being situated in the grounds of the 400-room Celtic Manor and close to Cardiff airport, the M4 and trains from Bristol. He said: “a truly international destination requires infrastructure.”
Heledd Williams, head of business events for the Welsh government, said that building lasting relationships, rather than one-off events, was key to growth. Wales has already hosted some large-scale events such as the 2017 Champions League Final and NATO Congress, but Williams underlined that bringing smaller, similar events in the wake of these big catches was equally important.
Following Williams’ talk, EN embarked on a hard hat tour of the in-construction ICC Wales venue.
We were given a chance to look around the huge entrance/foyer, currently an imposing structure of wire and scaffolding, but soon to be transformed into an attractive hall that will welcome delegates into the new venue.
We were also given a sneak peek of the main auditorium stage, with a capacity for 1,500 delegates. The impressive space is still taking shape, but will no doubt be home to some key speakers over the next few years.
ICC Wales is set to open in May 2019, with its first major event being the UK Space Conference 2019 from 9-11 July.
Following the hard hat tour, EN spoke to ICC Wales CEO Ian Edwards, who offered some thoughts on the venue’s impact upon Wales.
He said: “ICC Wales will be a catalyst for new business in the country. Everywhere is within travel distance – the M4, Cardiff airport, train lines. We hope it will transform the business events landscape in Wales, and provide new opportunities for the UK events industry.
“It’s not just about taking business from other parts of the UK, it’s about bringing in new conferences and events. We hope that in five years’ time we can start bringing some truly international events to ICC Wales.”
Following the tour, VisitBritain’s head of business events Kerrin MacPhie and the Department for International Trade’s Joss Croft offered some case studies of successful event bids, and discussed how Wales’ business events sector connects to its other key economic sectors.
EN also spoke to chairman of the Business Visits and Events Partnership Michael Hirst, who commented: “Post-Brexit, the UK may need to change its strategy to continue growing the industry. We will need to take a look at some of the bigger venues and capacity mapping, to find where there is room for growth. This is something we’re working on now with VisitBritain.
“ICC Wales is just the beginning: today is about promoting the country as a destination for the whole industry. We have to ensure that everyone in the Welsh business events sector is collaborating to continue driving growth.”
That was the key word on everyone’s lips at The Business of Events Wales: collaboration. The many construction workers on the ICC Wales site are a testament to it, but so are the executives, association leaders, organisers and many more groups besides who gathered in the conference suites of Celtic Manor Resort.
Only by working together can they bring important business to ICC Wales, and become a catalyst for change that can make a lasting impact on the industry.