The Westminster Collection in focus

The mix of historically, architecturally and culturally significant buildings in Westminster makes it a business tourism destination that cannot be beaten, says René Dee, CEO of The Westminster Collection, says René Dee, CEO of The Westminster Collection.

The Westminster Collection (TWC) is a unique business tourism marketing collective started in 2003 that, more than any other, serves to remind us all that Westminster, in the heart of London, is still the pre-eminent business tourism destination in the world with an abundance of excellent venues, hotels and services that cannot be beaten.
    
The mix of historically, architecturally and culturally significant buildings that provide the baseline for TWC venues and members are second to none.

Scope
These range from historical palaces such as Banqueting House, Whitehall, to the contemporary and wholly secure facilities of the QEIICC on Broad Sanctuary, in the very heart of Westminster’s parliamentary and governmental organisations. Sixty One Whitehall, home to the Royal United Services Institute is situated right next door to Banqueting House and has an impressive series of rooms to offer, including its Library, holding one of the most important collections on military history in the UK. Just behind both sits One Whitehall Place, home also of the National Liberal Club and which also adjoins The Royal Horseguards Hotel. Other important and thriving institutions, such as The Royal Society and the British Academy, both overlooking the Mall, The Royal Institution of Great Britain on Albermarle Street, off Piccadilly, and the Royal Institute of British Architects on Portland Place are also members offering their own superb facilities to businesses looking for professionally managed prestige venues that understand what they are looking for and can deliver a service to match.
    
Charities, associations and academies that, since the beginning of the 19th Century and before, built striking and solid buildings in key locations, have been sustained, beautifully restored, refurbished and upgraded into some of the most up-to-date quality facilities in London today. Excellent examples include No.11 Cavendish Square, home of The King’s Fund, facing onto Cavendish Square, The Royal Horticultural Society’s two fine halls and conference centre on Vincent Square and Elverton Street, The Royal Society of Medicine at One Wimpole Street, and also at Chandos House in Queen Street, and The Royal Society of Arts just off the Strand.  

Ecclesiastical elegance
The Church is also well represented with three landmark properties that have established themselves as venues for all manner of important events, as well as acting as centres of ecclesiastical governance. The imposing Central Hall Westminster on Storey’s Gate, also known as Methodist Central Hall and Church House Conference Centre, just a stone’s throw away in Deans Yard, is home to the General Synod. St Martin-in-the-Fields can truly claim to be “in the Heart of London and Westminster” facing, as it does, onto Trafalgar Square.
    
Not far away is One Birdcage Walk, home to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, and One Great George Street, home of the Institute of Civil Engineers. Further down towards Parliament Square, also on Great George Street, is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors with a reception terrace that provides what must be one of the most iconic of views across to Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye and the River Thames. The Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms is one of London’s top visitor attractions but, in keeping with so many other London attractions, it also offers its iconic facilities for corporate hospitality opportunities. Completing the selection in this classic SW1 precinct of Westminster are One Queen Anne’s Gate and Broadway House. Two venues are situated in prime positions overlooking The Thames. On the Embankment, just past Temple is the London home of IET Venues, Savoy Place. Next to TATE Britain is 45 Millbank, once home to The Royal Army Medical Corps, can offer its huge external grounds for fashion shows, outdoor function and marquee events while also offering fine rooms for banqueting and functions inside. On the River Thames itself is HQS Wellington, a finely restored Naval Ship that is home to The Worshipful Company of Master Mariners. And, at the Embankment Pier are Bateaux London, who operate their two River Cruise boats for fine dining and corporate hire on the River Thames between there and Greenwich.

Award-winning hotels
The Collection also includes an excellent selection of award-winning hotels, each with their own distinctive personality, attributes and style. The City Inn, not far from Tate Britain and the Thames with its clean Scandinavian style, was one of The Collection’s founder members, and continues to offer great facilities, whether for accommodation or for conferences and meetings. The Goring Hotel, one of London’s best-loved independent hotels is a jewel in Belgravia’s crown, just moments away from Buckingham Palace. The Crown Plaza Hotel, with its private apartments at 51 Buckingham Gate, and The Grange Rochester Hotel situated in leafy Vincent Square is a haven from the bustle of Victoria, close by. The delightful Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel, in the heart of Mayfair itself, completes the small, but select, offering in this category. Only one restaurant exists as a member of TWC, but the restaurant in question, The Cinnamon Club, is rather special offering a unique setting and excellent Indian cuisine in what was Westminster Library.
    
New to the Collection but as interesting to those looking for a venue of distinction and character, are the Private Member’s Clubs that, through us can offer their exciting selection of facilities for functions, receptions and weddings. In particular, the intimate St. Stephen’s Club in Queen Anne’s Gate that faces out onto St. James’s Park, The very Scottish and welcoming Caledonian Club in Halkin Street, Belgravia, the Victory Services Club, a distinctive Hospitality Assured organisation close by to Marble Arch and the West End, and the Naval & Military Club (also known as the In and Out Club) in St. James Square just off Pall Mall, are all excellent examples of the diversity being offered. Just off Park Lane is No. 4 Hamilton Place, home of the Royal Aeronautical Society that also has a fine terraced area, this time overlooking Hyde Park. Further afield are the excellent facilities of Cavendish Conference Centre and 76 Portland Place, all within striking distance of Oxford Circus and London’s West End.
    
Gone are the days when you could just open the spare rooms in your very large building that were no longer fully required for the original purpose it was built, throw in a few A/V props and conference chairs, and consider this was enough to bring in the business you wanted. Today it is a very different environment with very high expectations, standards and levels of commitment required in abundance on all fronts.

Economic impact
Take the financial commitment alone. A survey of our members carried out in 2009 revealed that, between them, in excess of £125 million had been spent on capital investment and refurbishment programmes during the past five years.   
    
An earlier survey of members established that turnover for The Collection, at that time, amounted to over £70 million with as much as a third of that again assessed as having been turned away due to incompatibility, or unavailability, or both.
    
Our members, therefore, are major players in maintaining the all important business tourism revenue that is vital to Westminster, and London’s economy. The economic impact benefit, as a result, is substantial and measured as three to four times greater than that derived from leisure tourism.
    
The concept for TWC, officially launched in October 2003, was simple. It was to ensure that primary facilities and venues in Westminster, marketed themselves collectively to ensure that the location in which they sat, that was such an integral part of why they were sought after in the first place, got a dedicated and independent voice within a membership environment that brought them results.
    
Now, with over 40, approaching 50, carefully selected venues that are truly representative of the strength of what Westminster can offer the event organiser and planner, TWC is an established first point of contact for them.

TWC Showcase
A key benefit for the Westminster buyer, that has become increasingly more important each year that they have been staged, are the bi-annual Spring and Autumn TWC Showcases that, in 2009, took place in the majestic Central Hall Westminster and the exalted cathedral-like Royal Courts of Justice respectively. In February 2010, this was held in The Royal Society of Medicine’s One Wimpole Street. IET London:Savoy Place was the venue used in Autumn 2008, and before that the Royal Horticultural Halls hosted these events from the very beginning in 2004. Both events attract key buyers who come because they can meet with our members who, between them, offer facilities in which to hold exhibitions, conferences, meetings, receptions, weddings, banquets, fashion shows, product launches, as well as accommodation. The Autumn 2010 Showcase will take place in Banqueting House on 14 September.
    
Crucially, the TWC Showcase ‘does what it says on the tin’; it showcases the TWC Members. It is, therefore, readily and easily understood by those who wish to come and meet with them in an intimate and user-friendly environment. It’s a buyers’ ideal ‘one-stop-shop’ where you don’t spend hours circumnavigating a complex exhibition layout looking to find what interests you. The result is a perfect synergy between those who are interested in what we have to offer and our members that can offer it.
    
TWC has seen sustained growth of its other two categories of membership, Associate and Affiliate. The former was created to allow key suppliers to the member’s venues, such as caterers, production companies, designers, technical service providers and others to promote themselves through mutual interest. Many of these have been very supportive of the TWC Showcase events by providing their key services at exceptional rates and, even free of charge. The latter are there to allow us to fulfil a CSR role by helping others through the industry we work in. Those members that fall into that category are, Westminster Kingsway College, The London Apprenticeship Company, The Society of London Theatre, the London Early Years Foundation and Troika Recruitment. We are particularly proud of our role in facilitating many of Westminster Kingsway College’s catering and hospitality students with valuable vocational experience and guidance at our Showcase events during the past six years. Then in 2008, we raised £1,000 for the then named Westminster Children’s Society (now the London Early Years Foundation) when each member donated £25 each to a specific project of theirs, instead of producing wasteful ‘Goody Bags’ for our Showcase visitors at the end of their event.
    
Our vision from the outset was: “To become recognised as the leading business tourism marketing collective for venues and events in Westminster.” We have already achieved this beyond doubt, but will continue to work with Westminster City Council and Visit London to strengthen our position to the benefit of all, by virtue of the economic impact benefit we create.

For more information
For further enquiries about TWC members, membership benefits, Showcase, Westminster Destination Guide, newsletters and activity, please contact www.thewestminstercollection.co.uk or René Dee at venue100-twc@yahoo.co.uk

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