West Midlands Growth Company uncovers the attractions drawing event organisers to Birmingham & the West Midlands, not least the recent Commonwealth Games.
It is fair to say that the past 18 months have propelled the West Midlands firmly into the global spotlight. Not only has Coventry successfully hosted the UK City of Culture, but the region also welcomed visitors from across the world for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The Games delivered, bringing with it 1.5 million ticket sales across 15 different event spaces, all in the space of two weeks. Across the Games fortnight, hotel occupancy reached an average of around 90%, an all-time August high for the city. Birmingham 2022 was an opportunity, not just for Birmingham, but the wider region to showcase itself across the UK and the world. More than five million people visited Birmingham city centre during the two weeks from 25 July, and many travelled to events hosted all over the region, including Wolverhampton, Leamington Spa, Coventry, and Warwick. Hosting the Commonwealth Games was a real boost for the West Midlands to highlight its event hosting credentials. Not only is the region located in the heart of the country, but has access to an international airport, and boasts over 20,000 hotel rooms within the Birmingham area alone.
The region’s conference hosting credentials are already well-known, with Birmingham’s flagship venue, the International Convention Centre (ICC) recognised as one of Europe’s finest hosts of meetings, events, and incentives of all sizes. The venue welcomed this year’s Conservative Party Conference in October, joining major meetings on the ICC’s recent events calendar including the International Society of Paediatric Neurosurgery and World Congress on Rail Research.
It has been confirmed that the focal point of the Games, the world class athletics venue Alexander Stadium, which received a £72 million renovation, will now house modern conference, meeting and event spaces when the stadium reopens before the end of the year.
Beyond the Games, the region boasts some amazing sporting facilities, from which event organisers can choose. Sporting venues offer some great spaces with a unique twist for visitors to enjoy.
The Belfry, which has hosted the Ryder Cup a record four times, recently invested £30 million into its facilities, with further developments planned. Located in Warwickshire, eight miles from Birmingham city centre, the Belfry has some of the finest event spaces in the region, an on- site hotel and three golf courses. While just outside the city centre, Edgbaston Stadium has excellent, multi-use facilities.
The historic stadium hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019, as well as dramatic Ashes matches, with both men’s and women’s England-Australia fixtures set to take place at the Birmingham venue next summer. The facilities include the Exhibition Hall for up to 800 people, as well as a banqueting suite, which can hold 700. More recently, Edgbaston has introduced ‘The Edgbaston Plaza’, an outdoor space which can host up to 5,000 people.
Villa Park, home of Aston Villa FC, has six event spaces for guests, including the 700 capacity Holte Suite situated within the famous Holte End stand. Molineux, home of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, also offers unique events spaces, with extensive views of the stadium and pitch for up to 500 people. It is also in the centre of the city, making it easily accessible for delegates.
To the east of the region, the Coventry Building Society Stadium and Arena, home to London Wasps and Coventry City FC, offers numerous options for events, meetings and conferences, from small meeting rooms to exhibition spaces, with capacities of up to 7,000 people. The venue hosts the National Painting and Decorating Show and the National Wedding Fayre in the coming months.
Hanging your hat
The West Midlands’ accommodation sector has never had a busier summer. Birmingham’s record occupancy and demand rates extended into the wider region, showcasing more of what the region offers in terms of accommodation. Many of the region’s hotels feature meeting and event spaces.
The Grand Hotel is one of the West Midlands’ oldest, opening in 1879. The hotel closed in 2002, before being refurbished and reopening in 2020. It offers 185 rooms and 10 meeting and event spaces for up to 500 within the historic building.
Birmingham’s Jurys Inn, with 445 bedrooms, will be rebranded as Leonardo Royal. The hotel is situated five minutes from the Utilita Arena, the ICC and the Symphony Hall, which has recently had a £13.5 million refurbishment. The Clayton Hotel is also set to expand. It offers 218 rooms and suites, as well as 11 meeting rooms for up to 140 delegates in a prime location, situated next to Birmingham city centre’s future HS2 hub, Curzon Street station. Also within reach of Birmingham’s other train stations, it makes for an ideal location for event attendees using public transport.
Located in Solihull, the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and Resorts World Arena host numerous events including Crufts, The Photography Show and Grand Designs Live. The campus offers several hotels, including the Hilton Metropole which has recently refurbished its facilities, including more than 600 rooms and 6,000 sq. metres of event space and has three restaurants and bars on-site.
Many events can be made by a host or MC, and experienced hosts can be hard to come by. Birmingham’s own Phil Oldershaw is a well-known face in the region and no matter the event, Phil can bring fun, passion, and high energy to the room from the get-go.
This year, Birmingham and the West Midlands Convention Bureau celebrates its 40th birthday. Working alongside event organisers, the Bureau offers expert advice, guidance, and insight with invaluable support to ensure that both organisers and delegates receive the best experience and welcome.
The Bureau, part of the West Midlands Growth Company, provides industry professionals with a range of free services to deliver successful events in the region. These include accommodation booking, venue location and social programme planning.
To learn more about the West Midlands Convention Bureau, call 0121 202 5100, email bcb.conferencesales@wmgrowth. com or visit Meetbirmingham.com