It’s an exciting time for meetings in the United Kingdom, which hosts more than 8.5 million delegates from around the world each year for more than 1.3 million business events. As well as adding several new event venues to the U.K.’s extensive portfolio this year, VisitBritain has welcomed back MeetGB, its flagship business event, for its second year. With easy accessibility — 154 international airlines flew to the U.K. last year — and more than 30,000 venues and 37 convention centers for planners to choose from, the meetings offerings in this compact country punch well above their weight.
Here, we lay out the best the U.K. has to offer event planners — from cocktail hours in castles in Wales to private events in a Victorian-era prison-turned-event-space in Northern Ireland.
A country fueled by inspirational energy, England is home to some of the top manufacturers in the world and has a long history of innovation and entrepreneurship. Easily accessible by train, sea, and air, it offers an impressive portfolio of business events facilities and is continuing to expand its international meeting offerings. The country will soon be home to the new $32-million conference center at Winter Gardens Blackpool, which will feature a two-floor-plus-mezzanine complex able to accommodate more than 1,500 delegates and providing direct links to the 3,000-capacity Empress Ballroom, the Opera House Theatre, and Empress Buildings. In addition, The Londoner, a 350-room hotel and cinema complex from Edwardian Hotels, will open in 2020. The five-star facility will offer seven meeting rooms, a private events area, and a ballroom accommodating up to 1,000 delegates. Plans have also been unveiled for a new $320 million international convention and exhibition center in NewcastleGateshead, which will include a 12,500-seat arena.
From engineering feats like the iconic Forth Bridge to historic life-science moments like the world’s first cloning of a mammal, Dolly the sheep, Scotland is home to a strong community of scientists, engineers, academics, and business leaders. Plus, the country is a world leader in renewables, electronics, technology, and marine exploration, providing meeting planners with a wide variety of resources when it comes to experts and speakers for their events. Organizers soon will have access to the new $430-million The Event Complex Aberdeen (TECA), opening this summer and offering more than 500,000 square feet of multipurpose event space including conference and exhibition halls, an arena, and a high-end restaurant.
Northern Ireland’s beauty is iconic — it’s lush rolling green hills have inspired literary legends such as Samuel Beckett and C.S. Lewis and served as the filming location for Game of Thrones and are home to the world-famous national nature reserve Giant’s Causeway. But it’s more than just a picturesque setting. It continues to grow as a top international meetings destination. In addition to the ICC Belfast, Northern Ireland has lots of unique and unusual event venue options, like Crumlin Road Gaol, a converted Victorian-era prison; HMS Caroline, a decommissioned Royal Navy C-class light cruiser that saw combat in World War I; and Titanic Belfast, which celebrates Belfast’s ship-making history and is where the RMS Titanic was created. Meeting planners can also host events at one of the National Museums Northern Ireland venues, like the Ulster, Ulster Folk, and Ulster Transport museums and the Ulster American Folk Park.
Wales not only offers stunning hotels and one-of-a-kind venues, including ancient castles (of which the country has more per square mile than anywhere else on Earth), but it’s committed to research, development, and innovation. Home to some of the most distinguished academic institutions in the world, Wales is at the forefront of developments in technology, engineering, and life sciences. The country is also adding a new meetings and events venue, the International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales) this year. The $100-million-plus property will provide more than 270,000 square feet of floor space, a 1,500-seat auditorium, and a 25,000-plus-square-foot plaza with additional networking and exhibit space.
These new developments are just more evidence of the U.K.’s flourishing MICE industry. “We are excited to be welcoming three new venues into our already comprehensive portfolio,” VisitBritain’s Head of Business Events Kerrin MacPhie said, “demonstrating once again that the U.K.’s business events offering is thriving.”
To contact VisitBritain’s Business Events team, who can help you find the right destination and support in the U.K., visit eventsaregreat.com.