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Tel: 0845 370 4606 Email: horthalls@rhs.org.uk Website: www.rhhonline.co.uk

VENUE VIEWMay 2012 . www.conference-news.co.uk . 21 hile many estimates have been made of the value of the global meetings industry, (it is more than £36bn to the UK alone according to the Business Visits and Events Partnership), the fact that this industry is a signifi cant creator of wealth is still not widely recognised. As a result, there is a need for all of us involved in convention centre management to keep shouting from the rooftops that our industry, both the events themselves and the venues that host them, continues to provide very signifi cant levels of economic impact to both the local and global economies. When I entered the meetings industry 35 years ago, the economy was reeling from the after-effect of a secondary banking crisis. Such periods of economic uncertainty seem to inspire enlightened cities to grasp the notion that conventions and meetings are potent drivers for regenerating regional and national economies. I experienced this fi rst hand while working for the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham in the early 80's, when the marketplace for events was as diffi cult as it is now. Over time, occupancy of those massive halls grew, new ones were built and a huge part of Birmingham's economic regeneration and success today can be directly linked to the creation of the NEC and, later, the International Convention Centre.Another lesson Because we're worth itThe UK meetings industry is worth much more than we think, according to Ernest Vincent, Chief Executive at The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centrecame from experiencing the miraculous growth of the Asian Tigers in 1986. As one of the founding directors of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, I was part of the team that opened the fi rst phase of this venue to worldwide acclaim in 1988, and it became a success almost overnight. Behind that success was a clear intention on the part of the Government of Hong Kong to attract more inward investment and business tourists, and while the economic benefi t to the SAR (Special Administrative Region) from the HKCEC was signifi cant then, it must be even bigger today.In yet another example, the Royal Thai Government in 1991 won a tremendous 'coup' to host the IMF/World Bank meetings outside its traditional home in Washington DC, and while the Government was not required to build a new convention centre for these meetings, they did so. The objective was to gain maximum economic impact from this infl uential international meeting of fi nanciers and economists and, while helping the Thai Government open the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, I watched it serve this purpose very effectively. More recently, I was with the City of Toronto and SMG at Exhibition Place in Toronto, a multi-functional 200-acre site for trade shows conferences sport and entertainment attended by over 4.5m visitors every year. Here again, the Mayor and his city councillors were a never ending source of support for this hugely successful complex, simply because the economic benefi t to the city and its residents was, and still is, clear for all to see.Now responsible for the British Government's Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, London, I am witnessing how a conference centre packed with 300-400 high profi le events a year has produced a signifi cant income to the central London economy over the past 25 years. The venue costs the Government nothing but earns a considerable sum for the community it serves; in fact paying a healthy dividend each year. W