It’s all happening in Liverpool

Liverpool CathedralFrom the striking architecture of the new Museum of Liverpool currently being constructed on the waterfront, to the plethora of new hotel projects that are hitting the area, it’s all happening in Liverpool.

New York, new Liverpool?

Plans for the creation of two new hotels within the city have been approved including a 140 bedroom three star hotel and a 130 bedroom budget brand which will take its design influence from New York’s contemporary Flatiron building. Designed by Liverpool-based architects Falconer Chester Hall the new hotel will be built by Northern Ireland-based developer Tara House and the first phase is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2011 with the rest of the development planned to finish in 2012.

Liverpool has also retained its position as one of the top ten most popular UK city destinations for overseas visitors according to the latest International Passenger Survey. Approximately 453,000 overseas visitors were attracted to the bright lights and enticing ambience of the city in 2009, making Liverpool sixth most popular.

“Liverpool really does just keep on getting better and better,” comments Liverpool Convention Bureau head Carol O’Reilly. “As a city we’ve always had the right mix for leisure and this is now proving to be a vital asset in complementing our conference and events facilities – which are themselves growing and evolving to meet the needs of our clients.”

An eventful city
The Convention Bureau has itself been busy in the run up to significant events entering the calendar, both in sourcing accommodation for the many thousands of delegates that come into the city, and helping to create social itineraries. Forthcoming conventions include the Liberal Democrat Conference from 18-22 September at ACC Liverpool, which is expected to attract around 4,000 delegates, while the third International Pedagogical Research in Higher Education Conference organised by Liverpool Hope University will take place from the 25-26 October at the University of Liverpool’s Foresight Centre.

Of course, social time after conferences plays a large role in attracting delegates to a city, and Liverpool’s credentials are second to none. Not only does the city boast the biggest number of museums and galleries outside London but it also features a host of interesting attractions and shopping destinations, including the brand new Liverpool One shopping centre.

Head for Heights
One of the best ways of seeing the city is from a height and delegates are spoilt for choice. The Liverpool Echo wheel gracing the skyline is a popular attraction located on the Albert Dock close to ACC Liverpool. Alternatively, the fifth floor of Hope Street Hotel has private terraces and huge floor to ceiling windows allowing natural light to flood in which afford the most wonderful views across Liverpool and beyond. While no mention of places to see Liverpool’s ever expanding scenery would be complete without the Panoramic, which is located on the 34th floor and offers a great spot for evening entertaining whether for dinner or just fantastic cocktails.

Delectable dining
Following on from restaurants like Chaophraya and Lunya, which have established themselves as culinary “must-eats” in Liverpool, comes news that two TV chefs are to make their mark on the city’s foodie trail.

Jamie Oliver has just opened his first North West eatery in the form of Jamie’s Italian, situated in Liverpool One.

Marco Pierre White will be creating his third North-West venue, as part of the currently under construction £15m Hotel Indigo, which is to open in Spring 2011.

White says: “Liverpool is a fantastic city with an indelible link to international trade and an eclectic flavour of personalities to match. Chapel Street stands testament to everything great about the city, from its glorious past to its bright future, and offers the ideal location for my latest venue.”

Clearly Liverpool’s reputation for combining business with pleasure will ensure that Liverpool is the destination of choice for event organisers for many more years to come.

20 miles to the North of Liverpool is the cosmopolitan seaside resort of Southport. In recent years the area has rebranded itself as ‘England’s Classic Resort’ combining boutique hotels, high quality restaurants and world class golf facilities with the popular and traditional aspects of a coastal town.
As part of this regeneration, the area has undergone significant investment in its facilities and infrastructure, namely in its business tourism product.  

The area’s flagship conference and events venue The Southport Theatre and Convention Centre (STCC) has been at the forefront of this regeneration. Following a £40 million transformation completed in 2008, the STCC underwent a complete refurbishment of its suites and amenities and created additional meetings and events space, as well a direct link to the town’s newest hotel, 133 bedroom Ramada Plaza Hotel.  

Gaynor Ferguson, acting sales manager at the Southport Theatre & Convention Centre, comments: “The investment has taken the STCC to the next level of conferences and events. We now have the facility to host over 1,600 delegates, making it one of the largest and most flexible venues in the North West.

“It demonstrates Southport’s commitment to attract and to deliver large scale exhibitions and conferences with the added advantage of being able to offer multiple breakouts and first class catering for large numbers all under the same roof. With the additional link to the Ramada Plaza Hotel, we can now offer competitive 24 hour packages to meet the highest standards of all our delegates.”

She concludes: “We have already seen a rise in sales and our client list grows daily – more importantly we are starting to attract the types of events that the new development was specifically created for.”

An array of venues
Within walking distance of the STCC and Ramada Plaza, Southport boasts several conference and events facilities, offering up to 42 meeting rooms, including the luxury Vincent Hotel, Scarisbrick Hotel and traditional Prince of Wales Hotel. In addition, just out of town, Formby Hall Golf Resort & Spa offers superb self contained meeting and event facilities in an exquisite setting while the historic Aintree Racecourse, home of the world famous John Smith’s Grand National is a consistently popular venue.

The investment in Southport has resulted in a surge of new business wins and new conference interest in the area. Since the beginning of the year, the area’s conference bureau, Southport Conferences has announced an impressive number of wins worth millions for the resort, with many events confirmed to return annually right up until 2017. In addition, as a popular destination for government and political conferences, Southport Conferences has recently announced that the Labour Party North West Regional Conference 2010 will be running to the STCC this November for the fourth time, with around 400 delegates expected to attend.

On your bike
With an ever growing number of business visitors, the resort is also working hard to maintain itself as an environmentally friendly destination. In June, Southport Conferences launched a dedicated delegate bike loan scheme, offered as part of the services currently provided by the bureau. The scheme is largely supported by Southport’s Cycling Town status, awarded in 2008, which provides the area with many routes and facilities for cyclists, including dedicated bike parks at local hotels.

Tony Corfield, assistant director of Leisure & Tourism Sefton Council explains: “Coupled with the fact that Southport has excellent rail links, it is a great town to reach and explore without the need for a car, both by bike and also on foot.

“With the cycle facilities that we already have in place in the resort, it seemed a natural choice to offer the delegate bike scheme service to visiting delegates. We hope it will make strides in demonstrating our commitment to improving Southport’s environmental credentials and in limiting the amount of traffic in the resort.”

A golfing destination
Perhaps Southport’s greenest attributes are its world class golfing facilities, with Sefton Coast boasting the biggest concentration of golf courses in the world. As ‘England’s Golfing Capital’, Southport houses six top courses with an additional 15 within 30 minutes drive from the resort’s centre. Three of the courses, Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham St Annes are the frequent choice for the Open Championship and are ranked as world class, all popular incentive choices with the corporate visitor.

The development and investment in Southport is on-going. It has recently announced that funding has been granted for a £15 million redevelopment of its Grade II-listed arts centre, library and art gallery which will create a brand new arts complex and events space for the resort. Expected to be completed in three years, the ‘Southport Cultural Centre’ situated in the town’s fashionable Lord Street, will encompass a major contemporary art space, a 430 seat theatre and a studio space, capable of hosting meetings and events for up to 600.