Launching a New Destination

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Can business events take off in London’s backyard?

The U.K.’s largest air show is helping to spawn a new business events destination in London’s backyard — Farnborough — and the surrounding county of Hampshire. It’s another example of event legacy, where the presence of a public event combined with a major trade show at an international conference centre is helping to attract investment and develop the economy of an “alternative” midsize destination.

The Farnborough International Airshow is a weeklong, biennial event that combines a major trade exhibition for the international aerospace and defence industries — featuring more than 1,500 exhibitors from 52 countries — with a public air show. The event has been held in mid-July in even-numbered years at the current Farnborough site since 1948. Today, the seven-day event continues to be a launch platform for aviation innovation and new aircraft and welcomes more than 100,000 people through its gates every two years.

The events venue is now known as Farnborough International Exhibition & Conference Centre and is situated on an airfield adjacent to TAG Farnborough Airport — a private and business aviation site. With a £30 million investment, the venue recently expanded its capacities and capabilities amid growing demand for business events in the area. The new venue, Hall 1, features 20,000 square metres of event space and can accommodate up to 10,000 guests.

“There is no doubt that the media profile of the Farnborough Airshow significantly highlights the town of Farnborough and the County of Hampshire and also brings with it a lot of business interest in the facilities at Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre during and after the show,” said Shirley Pinn, events director at Hampshire Conference Bureau.

She said there is a desire to use the high profile of the show and its venue to further raise the profile of Farnborough and Hampshire on the international business events stage.

“Due to the air show, aerospace and defence are without doubt a first-tier target sector for the region. The next step is to capitalise on this opportunity and further develop Farnborough and the County of Hampshire as international business event and incentive destinations, further aligning with Farnborough Airshow and the other industry sectors it attracts, such as digital technology,” she added.

Carlo Zoccali, account director at Farnborough International Exhibition & Conference Centre, said the centre “is run by the very same people who host and organise Farnborough International Airshow and we have deep-rooted associations with the aerospace, defence, security, and space sectors. Our parent company, ADS, plays an instrumental role in bringing industry and government together and seeks to grow the U.K.’s leading position in these industries. “

He added: “£94 billion of aviation and aerospace business takes place at the air show, which means Farnborough — and Hampshire — already have an international reputation for expertise in these industries. A strategy to target the industry’s international business events is simply common sense.”

The goal is to take the event/sector strength partnership a stage further. Pinn said she believes the region’s strong links with Farnborough International Airshow can lead the way to positioning the region as a science and high-tech hub.

As more destinations recognize the potential of aligning business event strategies with their sector and academic strengths, the global events sector will likely take on a new shape. Destinations would no longer be chosen on prominence, location, or size, but on the strategic value they can add to the event’s objectives.

Farnborough International Airshow runs through 22 July.

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