Research carried out by RJS Associates for the West Midlands Growth Company (WMGC) shows that the region welcomed 10.1 million local, national and international delegates in 2019, the final year when business events were not disrupted or affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
An estimated 105,000 MICE events took place, contributing to 14.5 million delegate days spent in the West Midlands. The region’s business tourism sector supports 65,000 full-time equivalent posts.
Findings from the report were unveiled at WMGC’s Future in the Making II partner event at the University of Birmingham’s new event space, The Exchange. The research will provide a baseline for the Business and Tourism Programme (BATP), which has been developed to capitalise on the significant economic opportunities that the profile of the 2022 Commonwealth Games will bring.
Steve Knight, Senior Business Tourism Manager, WMGC, said:
“Birmingham and the West Midlands is a modern, exciting and diverse destination, which remains a firm favourite among domestic and global organisers and delegates, thanks in no small part to its range of world-class event venues and fantastic connectivity.
“This new research highlights that the meetings and events industry remains a crucial sector, both pre- and post-pandemic, for the West Midlands and the people who live and work here.
“As we approach the 40th anniversary of our Convention Bureau and a huge year of opportunity thanks to major events such as the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, we are working hard to sell the region and its strengths to organisers across the world. We look forward to the spotlight being on the West Midlands and are eager to ensuring our visitors and delegates get the best – and safest – welcome.”
Kelly Haslehurst, Marketing Director, NEC Group Conventions & Exhibitions, added:
“Since the NEC Group reopened its doors this summer, we have welcomed hundreds of thousands of people back to do business within meetings, conferencing and exhibitions. As a group of venues, we have a proven track record in supporting organisations as they host high-profile events. We are adaptable, as the pandemic has demonstrated, and we have the space and connectivity to attract and host large audiences.
“However, the promotion of Birmingham and the West Midlands as a destination for live events is vital. From our customer insight, we know the fantastic impression delegates are left with once they have visited the ICC in the city centre and our NEC Campus. With positive developments including HS2 and our newly launched NEC Masterplan, we will further boost the region’s MICE proposition.”
During the next 12 months, the West Midlands welcomes the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games (28 July – 8 August) and the six-month Birmingham 2022 Festival (March-September). Major conferences and events in the region include the Volunteer Expo (6-7 May), the World Congress on Railway Research (6-10 June) and the Conservative Party Conference (2-5 October).
New accommodation venues set to boost the region’s offer in 2022 include the 100-room Hotel Indigo in Coventry. To the west of the region, Wolverhampton’s Civic Halls will reopen to once again host leading musical and entertainment acts, business events and conferences. The first phase of the Black Country Living Museum’s Forging Ahead project, telling the story of the 1940s, 50s and 60s in the region, opens in 2022, including new learning spaces and a visitor centre.
Councillor Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said:
“The conferencing and events sectors are thriving in Birmingham and the West Midlands, with a range of world-class venues and organisations.
"Our city, and region, has been able to attract a huge number of events and global visitors, demonstrating their outstanding hospitality and service, clearly evidenced in this report. A wider international audience will be able to safely experience our excellent conferencing and events sector during the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, and enjoy a unique, passionate and creative city and region which offers something for all those who visit.”
Paul Jones, Managing Director of Conference Coventry and Warwickshire, said:
“The tourism, leisure and hospitality sector in Coventry supports 7,000 jobs, generates £600 million and attracts over 10 million visitors here annually.
“Business tourism is a vital part of our visitor economy and we will be working with private and public sector partners to ensure its strong recovery after the impact of the pandemic.
“Under our new DMO, we will be advising members on key business decisions and strategy for the direction of their business. It is important that we are able to keep our members and stakeholders informed and research data is crucial in doing that effectively.
“From the research it is clear that the industry is in a fantastic position regionally. It’s important that we capitalise on the opportunities presented through Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 and Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. We will be on the world stage and ideally positioned to showcase the region as a premier destination for business tourism.”
Councillor Steve Evans, City of Wolverhampton Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for events, said:
“We have an overall five-year events strategy to bring the very best in art, music and sport to the city to boost the local economy, create new jobs and build an outstanding cultural reputation.
“Our location and excellent transport links give us first-class connection to the rest of the country and beyond and Wolverhampton is a walkable city with no shortage of conference and event venues. “We’re also investing heavily in transforming our public spaces around our key city venues, creating new event spaces and developing a hotel strategy - we want people to enjoy our city centre from the moment they arrive.
“Next year is shaping up to be a huge year for events in Wolverhampton with the Cazoo Players Snooker Championship adding to British Art Show 9, Creation Day music festival, Commonwealth Games cycling time trial, and the reopening of the multi-million-pound refurbished Civic Halls under global operator AEG Presents.”