Ian Edwards, CEO ICC Wales and Celtic Manor Resort, shares insights on bringing a lesser-known business events destination to the international market.
When the International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales) opens at Celtic Manor, Newport, Wales, in 2019, it will be Wales’ first purpose-built convention centre and will put us on the map as an international business events destination.
The consideration for my team is how we make the world take note. We realised that this is as much about our destination as it is our venue. How do we position Wales as the destination to choose, when there are already so many international destinations throughout the world?
By discussing this with industry experts, a strategy emerged.
First, be clear on your vision and brand. To brand a destination, you find what it offers that is unique and combine it with a blend of both rational and emotional appeal, supported by a compelling story, and the prospect of being the first to encounter new experiences and new people.
Second, local industry, academic institutions, and government should be encouraged to lend their support, leveraging the wider economic benefits that business events can bring and not just in terms of visitor spending and tourism. The most effective business events strategies are those that work with a destination’s economic sector strengths to attract inward investment, economic development, and the growth of intellectual capital.
When delegates arrive for a conference, they are also looking to increase their business, research, or investment interest more widely into that country. 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 what it offers them. 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. “Flexibility” and “creativity” are key words for today’s business event planner who is often facing internal pressures to achieve multiple objectives from tight 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. There is perhaps a three- to four-year window of opportunity for new destinations, after which they must rely on a track record of success.
It’s an exciting time. Wales has an opportunity to promote this fantastic country on the world stage. I am confident Wales — with ICC Wales as a major pull factor — will be welcomed on the international stage, and has the potential to become a major force in the global events market.