What’s behind Leeds’ success as a conference and meetings destination? Claire Heap, Head of ConferenceLeeds, explores why conferencing in Leeds is such a popular choice for event professionals.

The city of Leeds was named the fourth most popular conferencing destination in the UK in the BMEIS report 2018 – with the city contributing £212.7 million to the local economy in 2017, (UKCAMS). The 2018 STEAM survey recorded that Leeds welcomed 29.1 million tourism visits in 2017, a 6.3% increase from 2016. The city continues to climb the rankings – but what’s the driving force behind the success of this diverse city in the north of the UK? Why is conferencing in Leeds such a popular choice?

Claire Heap, Head of ConferenceLeeds, the conference bureau for the city, has outlined just some of the many reasons that the city is drawing in a  wide range of national and international conferencing business, year after year:

“With its easily accessible location, the city of Leeds is attractive to both national and international delegates. Leeds is only a two-hour train journey from London or one hour by air, making the city incredibly well connected to the capital. Leeds Bradford Airport also offers excellent transport links with national and international flights to over 75 international destinations and eight UK destinations.

“Leeds also boasts an exciting and unique venue portfolio, including boutique hotels, interesting museums, innovative sporting venues and specialist arenas. However, there are a number of other reasons that make Leeds stand out from the pack – and this is because of the reputation that the city has in its sectors.

Photograph of the inside of Trinity Leeds

Trinity Leeds

“The city works hard to provide the spark for the latest innovations in healthcare technology. Its history and heritage inspire a proud manufacturing sector. It’s also a centre for financial and professional services. Not only this, but the variety of digital and information economy businesses basing themselves in Leeds has created a tech boom here. Leeds is home to a diverse array of sectors, fields and industries, and these form a variety of hubs from which conference organisers can find experienced professionals who are on the ground, woven into the fabric of the city with their research and development. The draw of these institutions, academics and thought leaders, with their expertise and innovation, makes conferencing in Leeds a real bonus for conference organisers.

“It is because of this factor that 2019 was a particularly strong year for the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. We were pleased to see more and more of these sector conferences taking place in Leeds, as organisers were drawn to the city through our reputation and the resources we have available to them.

“Last year, we were incredibly pleased to host the 19th annual British Association of Paediatric Endoscopic Surgeons (BAPES), the Association of Laparoscopic Surgeons Annual Scientific Meeting (ALSGBI) and the UK Congress on Obesity – all worldleading events which are set to leave a lasting legacy on medicine and healthcare across the world. We also have the British Association of Endocrine and Thyroid Surgeons (BAETS) annual conference returning to Leeds for the first time since 2003 this year, which will see experts from all over the world meet to discuss the future of endocrine surgery.

“Leeds is already a major hub for health innovation and is home to NHS England and the Leeds Centre for Personalised Medicine and Health. The city is a powerhouse in terms of its contribution to the UK healthcare sector; with world-leading companies, clinical expertise, research and development capacity across its universities, hospitals, healthcare and medical device manufacturing sectors.

“Not only does Leeds have a long-standing history of healthcare innovation, the city’s healthcare sector is continuing to evolve as venues and organisations, including the University of Leeds, commission new research to make breakthroughs in medicine, long term conditions and more. Leeds helped pioneer the Charnley hip system as well as the UK’s first ever hand transplant and is supporting ongoing £3.5 million research into the role of AI and imaging to achieve precise radiotherapy delivery, testing new chemoradiotherapy protocols, blood and imaging biomarkers for treatment response, with special regard to specific cancers.

“It is this kind of world-leading research which continues to develop Leeds’ strength in this sector, in turn driving a wide range of new and exciting  conference business in healthcare and pharmaceutical, alongside our other sectors which are performing equally as well. With the above in mind, we’re placed for an exciting and successful year in Leeds in 2020 with a variety of new conference wins, returning conferences and home-grown events which continue to grow in scale.”


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