London and ExCel: A Unifying Value Chain for High Class Delegates!

4th Mar, 2024

The professional impact of congresses has always been valued within our sector, but their general understanding and demand has never been so strong in associations' purposes. London & Partners and its leading venue, ExCel London, describe below the reasons for the galloping growth of their business with several notable events.

London is a city that boasts connectivity between education, entrepreneurship and key sectors with strong links to the medical, life sciences, FinTech, AI and creative industries. A recent example would be the Chatbot Summit, which moved from Berlin because of this influence and also the strength of the London AI sector. With four of the world’s best universities and five teaching hospitals as well as some of the largest start-up companies, this close connection makes the UK capital a rich hub for R&D, ambassadorship and innovation as part of an events programme. London is also the ideal gateway to the rest of the UK with six major airports and rail links such as Eurostar. “The opening of the new Elizabeth Line has increased overall travel capacity by over 10%, with a direct route from Heathrow Airport to Central London in just 25 minutes. The line also offers a more sustainable and efficient way to travel from east to west, and connects directly to our largest congress venue – ExCeL London − in just under 45 minutes,” says Suzanne Singleton, Head of Associations and Citywide Bids at London & Partners.

MICE activity has come back with a vengeance, with North American incentives particularly strong and record numbers of delegates attending congresses, such as the recent International Conference on Robotics and Automation at ExCeL London. In turn, hotels are registering high occupancy and flight capacity is increasing to meet demand with new routes, confirming its status as the most booked to destination and top European city for meetings by Cvent. “London is forecast to welcome 18.6 million international visitors this year − 3 million more than last year − so we are definitely seeing a steady return to pre-pandemic levels. We are also seeing an intriguing shift towards combined leisure and business visits, with over a quarter of consumers opting for ‘flexcation’ travel in the next 12 months.” Events and congresses can truly incite change, whether it’s educating local communities, encouraging policy change or making a change for good, and the London & Partners takes an important role in this: “We act as conveners, connecting London’s ecosystem to congresses and their objectives. However, being able to demonstrate and measure the impact of an event is now a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’, just as sustainability is now an imperative part of the congress programme.”

The city has set ambitious targets to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2030 and become a zero-waste city by 2050, with the tourism and MICE sector playing a key role in achieving these goals. With 59 hotels and venues with Green Tourism accreditation, revolutionary new carbon neutral event spaces such as Oceandiva, and the aforementioned ExCeL at the forefront, the local industry has embraced green initiatives that have pulled forward sustainability experiences once you set foot off the plane. “Becoming a world leader in sustainability is one of the big goals within the new London Tourism Vision 2030, set to outline the city’s plans from infrastructure and offer improvements to our success and impact reporting,” Singleton adds. London is also one of the most multicultural places in the world, welcoming people from all walks of life into an exciting melting pot with over 233 different languages spoken and an unrivalled food scene. “We’re home to a thriving LGBTQ+ community and a huge range of international events, from the UK’s largest and most diverse Pride, to the Major League Baseball London series, which returned to the city this year. We are also excited to be hosting new kinds of events, such as the recent Riot Games e-sports tournament MSI League of Legends at the Copperbox Arena.” For the time being, the holding of the European Society of Cardiology Congress next year is also guaranteed.

Works and renovations in the city’s venue of excellence!

ExCeL London is executing a major expansion plan that will open in October 2024 a state-of-the-art ICC convention centre with new exhibition halls and conference rooms in an extension of 25,000m2, complying with sustainability standards. London has always been a world-class event destination, but even after everything we’ve been through, the city isn’t just back, it’s booming. “From an ExCeL perspective, our data shows that we are 10% above the previous record set pre-pandemic in 2019, which speaks volumes for our local event industry,” Executive Director, James Rees tells us. Within their framework, the space has been operating in five main areas: Climate Action, Resource Efficiency, Customer Engagement, Community Engagement and People. “ExCeL’s vision has always been to be a leader in the industry and help shape the future of events into one that is net zero, resource efficient and equitable. For our expansion project, this will be built to exceed industry standards in sustainability, as well as use 100% renewable energy and also provide green spaces for the local community to enjoy. We will shortly be publishing our ESG strategy which is all part of our collective journey towards net zero in 2030.”

DEI is something that the staff continues to improve by committing to new ‘ways of working’ with transparency. “That thinking informs everything we do, from being the first venue to join the Women In Exhibitions programme to providing organisers with gender-neutral restrooms like we do for events such as DragCon,” says Rees. Recruiting talent has been a challenge for the UK events industry and at ExCel, key to this is providing a diverse and inclusive workplace, but also opportunities to learn new skills and experience different roles. Last but not least, technology at ExCel plays a key role in shaping how content is consumed and this has required an investment ranging from a global studio for hybrid events to the in-house AV team. “It’s important to note that work has also become more adapted and flexible after the pandemic, and that means that as meetings reflect this way of life, every organiser needs to incorporate that personalisation as well. People want to feel as though they are a mini-VIP, and organisers need to think about how they can make delegates feel more valued,” concludes Rees.


The International Liver Congress 2022 Case Study

The results of the 2022 edition of the International Liver Congress were a true demonstration of local community involvement, education and social awareness. Following the congress, The Home of Hepatology implemented the recommendations of the Lancet Commission Report to enable a significant change in the treatment of liver disease and cancer in Europe. Furthermore, during the congress, the organisers of the European Academy for the Study of the Liver worked with the site and the city on two very special projects: first, they visited a primary school in Newham (site of the ExCeL), to educate children about the importance of liver health; secondly, a liver scanning machine was put in place and participants and staff working at the venue were invited to have liver scans. Outcome measurements are compelling and will continue long after the London conference.

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Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.