Event Guide: Opportunity knocks, so it's time for venues to look lively

Summing up the UK's contribution to the association market is a heartening process. In the capital alone, a plethora of new and improved venues have opened up a world of opportunity, from large-scale, high-profile venues such as The O2 arena, through to more niche spaces such as the recently refurbished Royal Festival Hall. In fact Visit London reports that association business booked through its venue enquiry service last year equated to £77m of economic impact for the city.

But Rome wasn't built in a day and adequately accommodating these events remains a work in progress. At the heart of the associations event market is a healthy sense of competition that requires venues to strengthen their offering and address their weaknesses.

A quarter of international association events staged in the UK head to Scotland. Yet its share of association business dipped in 2006 - evidence of both domestic and international competition, according to Visit Scotland.

For Northern Ireland it's all about accommodation. Belfast sails past Birmingham and Cardiff in the ICCA rankings but has too few beds on offer, something the region will address with the addition of 500 rooms in the next 18 months.

In England, competition among venues is rife, almost to the detriment of the industry. In some cases it is thought that venue growth outstrips any increase in event demand.

And in Wales it's early days. Visit Wales appointed a dedicated association corporate sales executive in February whose remit includes improving Cardiff's ICCA ranking, developing a Welsh ambassador programme and working in tandem with the Welsh Assembly.

So it's a busy time for everyone. In the pages that follow we address the challenges being met by UK venues while always bearing in mind those at the heart of the cause - the associations themselves.

We hope you find the guide insightful and look out for our European supplement next month.

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