Even more investment enhances Liverpool’s facilitiesCarol O’Reilly highlights the good news for event organisers
Within the Mersey Partnership, the body that promotes economic development, investment and tourism in the sub-region encompassing Liverpool, Southport and what is known as England’s Golf Coast (with 20 clubs in close proximity), the name Liverpool Convention Bureau has been introduced as a specially focused unit.
It was announced at Confex 2010 by Carol O’Reilly, the Convention Bureau Manager, who explains that it is designed to focus attention on Liverpool’s new image as a modern MICE destination with an increasing range of event facilities.
‘In the last two years, the arrival of ACC Liverpool, embodying BT Convention Centre and the Echo Arena’, says Carol, ‘has added enormously to the way that this region can be viewed by the world’s event organisers.
ACC Liverpool enables Liverpool to cater for events of a much bigger size and scope than before. ‘For example, ‘says Carol, ‘next year we are hosting the Labour Party Conference. This attracts around 12,000 to 13,000 delegates. In addition, the event requires lots of locations for fringe meetings and activities. The delegates have a wide range of budgets for their attendance and the region is rapidly increasing its accommodation in every category.’
In November 2009 Hilton and Novotel opened 4-star properties, adding a total of 425 rooms very centrally, close to the great new shopping centre Liverpool One. Hampton by Hilton is opening later this spring with 160 rooms of about 3-star category, adding to the Hampton brand that is already established at Liverpool’s international airport. On the way, probably ready by July, are 106 Base2stay hotel apartments. InterContinental is introducing a large boutique-style hotel, Indigo, with 151 rooms close to the Crowne Plaza and Atlantic Tower properties. At the budget end of the market, a Days Inn will be opening at the end of the year with 155 rooms. This will bring the tally of hotel rooms in the city centre to 5,000.
The city itself has been quite determined in bringing itself up-to-date as a modern destination. Rows of shops and an old, particularly undistinguished office block that masked the attractive Lime Street Station buildings have been demolished and the final touches are now being put to the landscaping that will give the railway station a totally different aspect. As much as £35m is being spent, and the main Platform 7 has been remodelled and there is now a First Class Lounge there.
‘Rail transport is important to us’, Carol points out. ‘The journey from Birmingham, for example, has been speeded up by reducing the number of stops on the route. Delegates can come in from the Midlands in two and a quarter hours, city centre to city centre.’
The region has a variety of environments to offer. Liverpool itself has created a major entertainment and cultural area out of what had been a run-down docks area. There are all the associations with the Beatles. There are championship golf courses and golf academies less than an hour away, inland or on the coast. There is the seaside resort of Southport with its own new event facilities. And on the doorstep is the beautiful county of Cheshire ready to include in any leisure or team-building programme.
‘We have made amazing progress in a few short years’, says Carol, ‘but we feel we have only just started the process of driving business tourism to the city and its region. We anticipate we will create 14,000 new jobs and about £2bn of visitor spend by the year 2020.’
Contact the Liverpool Convention Bureau team on 0151-237 3520 or go to www.visitliverpool.com
Southport brings in the businessRachel Ford, Marketing Officer for Southport Conferences, part of Sefton Tourist Board, brings ITCM up-to-date on the area’s continued progress in the meetings market
Sefton, an attractive coastal area north of Liverpool, has been steadily getting younger. Until a few years ago it could have been said that it was catering more and more for the older generation looking for a quiet rest by the sea. But now, after detailed planning and substantial investment, the district is buzzing.
‘We are receiving increasing numbers of enquiries for our optimum size of event’, says Rachel Ford, Marketing Officer for Southport Con-ferences, which is part of Sefton Tourist Board, ‘and we are registering a higher and higher proportion of conversions.’
Since the opening of the Southport Theatre Convention Centre, events of 500 to 1,500 delegates have been growing very nicely. ‘They have kept the locality busy even during the recession period’, Rachel is happy to report, ‘because of course they were mostly confirmed when times were better and it has taken a couple of years for them to be held. But the trend should continue, as we are fielding a much greater number of enquiries and we have much more comprehensive and modern facilities to offer’. The new Southport Theatre Convention Centre is a complex boasting a group of complementary facilities. Its theatre has a 1600-seat raked auditorium. The totally remodelled Floral Hall, which had been there many years, has a flat floor that can accommodate 900. On site, a short walk for delegates is the new Ramada Plaza.
The sea front and its attractions have been smartened and updated, giving visitors more amusement options and also greater awareness of the variety of birds to be seen close to the centre of town. The coastline itself is dotted with at least 15 well-known links courses.
‘It has all meant’, says Rachel, ‘that we have now immense confidence in the product we can offer. We know that we can promote to generate enquiries and that when we invite organisers here to carry out site inspections for themselves, they won’t be disappointed’
The result is that she and her team can reel off the names of organisations that have chosen Southport for conferences of significant size. The Institute of Dance Teachers will be bringing about 1000 members to Southport annually until 2015; About 500 Prison Officers will be meeting there annually until 2016. Over the next few weeks Southport will welcome 1500 delegates to a Women Aglow 3-day conference, 500 members of the Fire Brigade Union and 500 members of the GMB union for five days.
The new Southport started taking shape about 2001 and the transformation is not finished yet. The Southport Arts Centre is being redesigned and will become, by 2012, an attractive new meetings facility, another string to Rachel’s bow.
Capital of England’s Golf CoastThe Sefton Coast is the world’s biggest concentration of golf courses
Not enough people realise that Southport can be regarded as the capital of England’s Golf Coast.
They are links courses, making the most of England’s biggest area of sand dunes. Apart from the courses, the whole stretch, mile after mile, is comparatively untouched, giving players and visitors the sense of being out in a wilderness of natural beauty. And the sea plays its part. It can be tranquil or whipped up by the wind, making the game all the more challenging.
Three of the links courses, Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham St Annes, are the frequent choice for the Open Championship and are ranked as world class.
Southport’s group events team has close contacts with the golf clubs and is able either to recommend to clients or even act on their behalf in selecting nearby courses to form part of a leisure or incentive programme. It can be for a full-blown tournament for golfers of some skill, or a golf clinic with professionals on hand to iron out the problems for golfers of any standard. Or, with such a range of clubs from which to choose, client companies can ask for a fun day for all at a price that won’t break the budget.
Unique nature of the dunes
The region’s unrivalled English sand dunes can be of service in a totally different way. Ainsdale Sand Dunes are part of the Sefton Coast Special Area of Conservation, with about 1,500 acres home to protected flora and fauna. With the help of an accompanying expert, it is possible to first see the dunes as a desert and then to discover on very close inspection some of the 450 species of plant, of which several dozen are rare varieties.
There are also populations of natterjack toads, lizards and great-crested newts. Visitors are also surprised to learn that the pine trees in the area are one of the last homes of the country’s red squirrels that have disappeared from most of the rest of England.
There is a huge tidal flow on the Sefton coast, so that it attracts a wide variety of wading bird that find food easy to locate on the vast inter-tidal areas.
Just one afternoon within a leisure programme would be a fascinating interlude for those who do not choose to play golf.
World’s best women golfers coming to Birkdale
The end of July will see the Ricoh Women’s British Open return to the Royal Birkdale Golf Club on the Sefton Coast near Liverpool and Southport. It is the only Major golf tournament for women outside the USA.
Every player in the women’s top 30 has entered and there will be players, in total, from as many as 25 different countries.