Last month we welcomed some of Harrogate’s business
community to put their questions to us at an event called Engage with Your
The panel comprised our director Simon Kent, Head of Sales
and Events Brian Dobson, along with Harrogate Borough Council chief executive
Wallace Sampson, and Council Leader Richard Cooper. Here we give you a summary of some your questions and the responses we gave.
The session saw various questions covering everything from
the future of the Convention Centre site to how we communicate with local
Q: What are the key
market sectors the Convention Centre is targeting for new business and how
sustainable are they?
A: There are three main sectors we are focusing on - the
first is international associations. These events tend to book their
conferences and exhibitions from two-to-six years ahead.
We have now joined an organisation called International
Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) which helps us see which
international events are coming up so we can target them.
We are also continuing to bring in national associations,
who can book their events up to four years in advance.
Our strategy then involves filling in any gaps in the diary
by selling the venue to corporate or business events, which can have very short
lead times. They work on a year-to-year basis.
And we are always looking to persuade exhibition
organisers to come to Harrogate.
Q: How can Harrogate
compete with larger cities, which can sometimes lure events with very large
discounts or even offer them event spaces for free?
A: A lot of these conventions have to rotate venues every
year to make it fair on all their members in terms of distance they have to
travel to an annual conference.
For example we won the International Sheep Veterinary
Congress for Harrogate this year. It brought thousands of visitors and only
takes place every four years – anywhere in the world.
We are constantly reviewing our event pricing and we can
also offer incentives to attract those events to Harrogate, but there are
always going to be times when we just can’t compete with what some of the large
Q: What are you doing
to benefit local residents?
A: We are ensuring that £60million-a-year continues to come
into the local economy from visitors to Harrogate Convention Centre. The
taxpayer subsidises the Convention Centre to the tune of between £700,000 and
£800,000 every year. Without the Convention Centre being here there would not
be that £60million going through tills of the hotels, guesthouses, restaurants
and independent businesses. What we are doing is trying to grow ourselves – putting
together a strategy to attract more conferences and exhibitions and therefore,
in-turn, the visitor spend.
Q: Is the Convention
Centre facing competition in its own back yard, now that the Yorkshire Events Centre
(YEC) has a new exhibition hall?
A: It’s actually a good thing for Harrogate that we have two
major event venues. The kinds of events they (YEC) host are not necessarily the
same kind we would hold at the Convention Centre. For example we hold a lot of corporate events and
conferences and there’s been a growth of retail events on our site too.We don’t see it as causing any big problems for either of us
– it’s healthy for Harrogate.
Q: How do you stop
big events overlapping with those at the YEC?
A: The dates of the events we host are requested by the
organisers. For major events, we always look to see if there’s anything big on
at the YEC. If there is, it may be that the event organiser will choose another
date or decide not bring the event to us. But we are a commercial organisation and it may be that
there are times when there’s no option but to hold two events at the same time
in Harrogate and we have to make it work. But the bigger the event the more spend in the visitor
Q: How do you promote
events to the public? Can your communications be sent out to businesses in
A: there are many ways to find out about the events we are
hosting at Harrogate Convention Centre and the Royal Hall.
You can sign up to our regular What’s On email, which
provides a full list for the coming month, plus a page of news.
There is also an e-shot specifically for local businesses,
which gives a full listing of what’s coming up during a calendar month.
Including expected visitor numbers.
We also regularly post news about events on our social media
pages. On Twitter you can follow @HgtConventions and @RoyalHallEvents. You can
find us on Facebook under @RoyalHallHarrogate and also @HarrogateConventionCentre
The What’s On pages on our website also have details of
every event confirmed to take place at the Convention Centre.
If you would like to be added to our mailing list contact
Q: Other towns and
cities, for example Liverpool, have event venues in the middle of pedestrianised
‘cultural quarters’ surrounded by galleries and museums, etc. How can Harrogate
hope to compete?
A: We are putting in place the funds to build an outstanding
business and generate significant economic impact for the town.
We need to look at reconfiguring the site, which will
require investment. We are looking at building a 6000m2 exhibition hall. That
will really position us, with a brand new multi-use facility, to be able to go
out there and win business.
It’s very clear that with the way the industry is going we
are going to continue to attract events to the venue but we won’t necessarily
need the same size of footprints to deliver these events.
Mixed use will add value to the site and make it more
appealing to organisers because they will have ancillary use. Whether that is
retail, accommodation or other types of use. But we’re not just doing that in
isolation – we need to look at what will make the whole town and the
destination more appealing.
It’s part of the town master plan, including looking at
improving infrastructure and the bus and rail stations and linking the
Convention Centre to a cultural quarter, past Crescent Gardens to Valley
Q: Are you
recognising the importance of leisure tourism as well as business tourism?
A: Our economic growth strategy doesn’t ignore tourism at
all; it actually recognises the importance of the visitor economy to the region
as a whole.
We make a huge investment in tourism such as parks and
gardens and the Convention Centre. If we are going to deliver a long term sustainable economy
we need to look at all opportunities available to us. At the moment Harrogate has a lot of high-earners living
here but those high earners don’t necessarily work here. We want to make Harrogate
an attractive place to live, work and visit.
We hope to hold similar sessions in the future so keep
checking the What’s On pages of our web site, or ask to sign up to our monthly What’s
On newsletter by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org