Shropshire Star

Conferences and meetings deliver £2.3bn to regional economy

The conference and events sector was worth £2.3 billion annually to the West Midlands economy before the coronavirus pandemic.

Birmingham's International Convention Centre

A report into the economic impact of meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) in the region reveals that event delegates spent that amount in the area in 2019.

Research carried out by RJS Associates for the West Midlands Growth Company found that that the region welcomed 10.1 million local, national and international delegates in 2019, the final year when business events were not disrupted or affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

An estimated 105,000 MICE events took place, contributing to 14.5 million delegate days spent in the West Midlands.

The region’s business tourism sector was supporting 65,000 full-time equivalent posts.

Findings from the report were unveiled at WMGC’s Future in the Making II partner event at the University of Birmingham’s new event space, The Exchange.

The research will provide a baseline for the business and tourism programme, which has been developed to capitalise on the significant economic opportunities that the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham will bring.

Next year will also see the reopening of Wolverhampton's Civic Halls and the opening of the first phase of the Black Country Living Museum’s Forging Ahead project, telling the story of the 1940s, 50s and 60s in the region, including new learning spaces and a visitor centre.

Steve Knight, senior business tourism manager for WMGC, said: “Birmingham and the West Midlands is a modern, exciting and diverse destination, which remains a firm favourite among domestic and global organisers and delegates, thanks in no small part to its range of world-class event venues and fantastic connectivity.

“This new research highlights that the meetings and events industry remains a crucial sector, both pre- and post-pandemic, for the West Midlands and the people who live and work here.

“As we approach the 40th anniversary of our convention bureau and a huge year of opportunity thanks to major events such as the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, we are working hard to sell the region and its strengths to organisers across the world. We look forward to the spotlight being on the West Midlands and are eager to ensuring our visitors and delegates get the best – and safest – welcome.”

Councillor Steve Evans, Wolverhampton Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for events, said: “We have an overall five-year events strategy to bring the very best in art, music and sport to the city to boost the local economy, create new jobs and build an outstanding cultural reputation.

“Our location and excellent transport links give us first-class connection to the rest of the country and beyond and Wolverhampton is a walkable city with no shortage of conference and event venues. We’re also investing heavily in transforming our public spaces around our key city venues, creating new event spaces and developing a hotel strategy – we want people to enjoy our city centre from the moment they arrive.

“Next year is shaping up to be a huge year for events in Wolverhampton with the Cazoo Players Snooker Championship adding to British Art Show 9, Creation Day music festival, Commonwealth Games cycling time trial, and the reopening of the multi-million-pound refurbished Civic Halls under global operator AEG Presents.”

Kelly Haslehurst, marketing director for NEC Group Conventions and Exhibitions, added: “Since the NEC Group reopened its doors this summer, we have welcomed hundreds of thousands of people back to do business within meetings, conferencing and exhibitions. As a group of venues, we have a proven track record in supporting organisations as they host high-profile events. We are adaptable, as the pandemic has demonstrated, and we have the space and connectivity to attract and host large audiences.

“However, the promotion of Birmingham and the West Midlands as a destination for live events is vital. From our customer insight, we know the fantastic impression delegates are left with once they have visited the ICC in the city centre and our NEC Campus. With positive developments including HS2 and our newly launched NEC Masterplan, we will further boost the region’s MICE proposition.”