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