LON­DON

Ex­cit­ing de­vel­op­ments lie ahead for the Big Smoke, boost­ing its com­pet­i­tive edge for tradeshows.

Business Traveller - - WHERE TO MEET - Jools Stone re­ports

Im­prov­ing its con­nec­tiv­ity is the cur­rent fo­cus of the UK cap­i­tal, which con­tin­ues to at­tract global con­fer­ences and of­fer quirky group in­cen­tives

Au­tumn 2019 sees the open­ing of the El­iz­a­beth Line, a water­shed in Eu­rope’s largest in­fra­struc­ture project, Cross­rail, con­nect­ing 41 Lon­don sta­tions, in­clud­ing ten new ones, over a 100-kilo­me­tre stretch be­tween Heathrow and Abbey Wood (South­east Lon­don). The fact that it was needed tells you some­thing about Lon­don’s as­pi­ra­tions to dom­i­nate the global event busi­ness.

Even be­fore Cross­rail, Lon­don was al­ready one of the world’s most con­nected cities, with di­rect flights from five ma­jor air­ports serv­ing more than 380 des­ti­na­tions, links to 270 Lon­don Un­der­ground sta­tions, easy ac­cess to mo­tor­ways and even a cable car cross­ing the Thames. All this ex­ists to serve in­creas­ing de­mand from vis­i­tors. The El­iz­a­beth Line will cut jour­ney times with more fre­quent, high­ca­pac­ity trains. Still to come is Heathrow Air­port’s third run­way, which was fi­nally ap­proved in June, with con­struc­tion sched­uled to start in 2021 for com­ple­tion by 2026.

So what brings vis­i­tors here? Scores of world­class mu­se­ums and at­trac­tions, cen­turies of his­tory and a city that never rests on its lau­rels. A di­verse tal­ent pool brim­ming with world-lead­ing ex­perts, aided by com­pa­nies at the fore­front of emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies and re­search leaves Lon­don’s con­fer­ence mar­ket in a healthy state. Lon­don has taken the top spot for the fourth con­sec­u­tive year in Cvent’s Euro­pean MICE rank­ings, scoop­ing £33 mil­lion of busi­ness.

The city’s cre­den­tials in tech and fi­nan­cial ser­vices con­tinue to at­tract cut­ting-edge con­fer­ences. This year, Lon­don Tech Week wel­comed more than 50,000 del­e­gates, and next year the cap­i­tal will host ma­jor fin­tech con­fer­ence Si­bos. A high con­cen­tra­tion of lead­ing re­search in­sti­tu­tions has en­sured strong growth across the med­i­cal and life sci­ences sec­tors, in­clud­ing the Euro­pean So­ci­ety of Car­di­ol­ogy’s con­fer­ence, which will bring more than 30,000 del­e­gates to the city in 2021.

’WE'RE EX­CITED ABOUT THE OPEN­ING OF THE EL­IZ­A­BETH LINE, WHICH WILL LINK IM­POR­TANT BUSI­NESS HUBS SUCH AS CA­NARY WHARF AND EAST LON­DON’

The legacy of Brexit re­mains to be seen, but there have been few signs of a neg­a­tive im­pact so far. Last year saw a four per cent in­crease in in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors, along with a 14 per cent in­crease in spend. A vig­i­lant ap­proach to se­cu­rity this year has seen the city avoid the ma­jor ter­ror­ist in­ci­dents that plagued the cap­i­tal in 2017.

The fan­tas­tic wealth of venues and en­ter­pris­ing com­pa­nies dream­ing up ever-cre­ative ways to get teams bond­ing out­side the of­fice means there’s no short­age of fun in­cen­tive op­tions. Es­cape rooms – team-based puz­zle games, where play­ers must solve clues in or­der to es­cape a locked room – are a fun op­tion for team build­ing, and the Crys­tal Maze re­mains a pop­u­lar op­tion since it opened in Lon­don in 2016. In July 2017, this was joined by Madame Tus­sauds’ im­mer­sive Alien: Es­cape. The ex­pe­ri­ence, in­spired by the film fran­chise, chal­lenges guests to sur­vive a mul­ti­sen­sory fright fest fea­tur­ing the movies’ di­a­bol­i­cal crea­tures.

The in­creas­ing so­phis­ti­ca­tion of Lon­don’s culi­nary scene con­tin­ues with the open­ing of new food mar­kets. Old Spi­tal­fields Mar­ket is be­ing trans­formed into a restau­rant hub with ten kitchens served by more than 100 traders to ri­val Brix­ton’s Pop and the Peck­ham Lev­els. South of the river there’s No. 29 Power Sta­tion West – an achingly hip, vast in­dus­trial all-day din­ing space in Bat­tersea Power Sta­tion.

Ex­cit­ing new ho­tels are com­ing to the cap­i­tal, such as the Hard Rock Ho­tel Lon­don in spring 2019. The 1,000-room prop­erty will take over site of the Cum­ber­land Ho­tel, a reg­u­lar haunt of Jimi Hen­drix, with Hyde Park views.

Land­mark build­ings such as Bat­tersea Power Sta­tion and New Scot­land Yard and are be­ing reimag­ined. The Art’otel Bat­tersea is ex­pected to open in 2019. The 160-bed­room life­style ho­tel will boast a rooftop pool and bar, a sig­na­ture restau­rant and a gallery.

Lon­don Con­ven­tion Bu­reau Di­rec­tor Tracy Hal­li­well sums up 2018: “An­other ex­cit­ing year for Lon­don’s MICE in­dus­try as we con­tinue to see a strong ap­petite from meet­ing and event plan­ners across the world. We’re ex­cited about the open­ing of the El­iz­a­beth Line, which will link im­por­tant busi­ness hubs such as Ca­nary Wharf and East Lon­don’s tech clus­ter, as well as halv­ing travel times to venues like Ex­cel.”

ETC VENUES COUNTY HALL

Next to the Lon­don Eye, ETC Venues County Hall of­fers a huge multi-pur­pose, in­ter­con­nect­ing space, in­clud­ing two suites with 900 ca­pac­ity and sub­lime views across the Thames. With no fewer than 20 rooms on one floor, many of this for­mer mu­nic­i­pal HQ build­ing’s orig­i­nal fea­tures have been re­tained with con­tem­po­rary de­sign twists. etcv­enues.co.uk

PRINTWORKS LON­DON

Printworks of­fers 11,000 sqm for 6,000 guests in what was once western Eu­rope’s largest newsprint fa­cil­ity. Six event spa­ces are spread over mul­ti­ple lev­els, along­side a maze of cor­ri­dors and of­fices hous­ing orig­i­nal ma­chin­ery and in­dus­trial fea­tures. Out­side there’s a fur­ther 4,700 sqm of space. The ul­ti­mate blank can­vas for ex­hi­bi­tions, par­ties and prod­uct launches. print­work­slon­don.co.uk

HERE EAST

Here East pro­vides 3,605 sqm of event space in the heart of Queen El­iz­a­beth Olympic Park. This unique venue has a pri­vate roof ter­race and a highly flex­i­ble lay­out for break­out spa­ces, smaller events and re­cep­tions. It’s es­pe­cially well­suited for cul­tural, tech and brand-build­ing events. hereeast.com

NA­TIONAL ARMY MU­SEUM

The re­vamped Na­tional Army Mu­seum opened in March 2017 with five new per­ma­nent gal­leries and tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tion spa­ces telling the sto­ries of the Bri­tish Army and its legacy. The top-floor board­room gives fine views over the Royal Hospi­tal Chelsea, while the stun­ning new atrium at the mu­seum’s heart is per­fect for din­ners, re­cep­tions and award cer­e­monies. nam.ac.uk

Clock­wise fromtop left: Printworks Lon­don; Here East; ETC Venues County Hall; Na­tional Army Mu­seum

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