ICC Wales on the up and up!
Those of you who travel past Celtic Manor on the M4 will have seen the rapid progress now being made on the build of the new International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales).
Most of the steel framework has now gone up so we are getting a real impression of the shape and scale of this amazing building. It has been exciting to see all the progress made over the last 12 months but there is a real sense that things are accelerating now as almost every day it seems a significant new milestone is reached.
As well as the very visible construction, the team has also been making great strides away from the site in preparing ICC Wales to hit the ground running when it opens in just over a year’s time.
A number of new conventions have been contracted to take place at the new venue following the the opening of ICC Wales in July 2019. Confirmed business already on the books will be worth an estimated £10m to the local economy as delegates seek nearby accommodation as well as food, entertainment, transport and venues and attractions for associated meetings and delegate trips.
Now that sub-contractors like mechanical and electrical engineers are on site, we have also been delighted to announce that build contracts worth more than £22m have been awarded to Welsh companies.
Being a newcomer on the international convention centre map presents a challenge as we have no track record to show event planners and organisers and we have only a building site and the shell of a building to show them when they visit us, but it also gives us an opportunity.
Never again will we have the chance to promote ourselves as brand new to the market and this applies as much to Wales as a convention destination as it does to ICC Wales as a convention venue.
We are anxious to maximise this opportunity and recently, we were privileged to host Martin Sirk, CEO of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and had the opportunity to tap into his expertise on the international market.
He advised us to be clear on our vision and brand. Wales has an opportunity not just to open a state-of-the-art facility, but to promote the country as a whole. The right blend of both rational and emotional appeal, combined with the compelling story we can tell about our destination, can win the hearts and minds of event organisers from anywhere in the world. And as an emerging destination we have the added allure of providing new experiences and new people to meet.
We are already establishing a strong and diverse network of partners, but I think most people are yet to grasp the scope of opportunity that is coming our way. We need to galvanise local businesses, universities and government to support and leverage the wider economic benefits that the conventions we hold at ICC Wales will bring.
It’s well known that major conferences, meetings and events bring visitor spending and business to the local community as well as repeat visits, but in today’s market, the most effective business events strategies are those that also pull together the promotion of inward investment, economic development and intellectual capital to the area.
Everyone needs to understand what the country is trying to achieve and the part they can play in making it happen. We need to be one enthusiastic team, learning together and from each other.
As an emerging destination, we have the advantage of being flexible and bespoke in how we host business events from the start. ‘Flexibility’ and ‘creativity’ are key words for today’s business event planner who is often facing their own internal pressures to achieve multiple objectives from ever-decreasing budgets.
There is perhaps a three-four year window of opportunity for ICC Wales as ‘the new kid on the block’, after which we must rely on a track record of success. I am determined that ICC Wales – and Wales more widely – will definitely make the most of the former to produce the latter.