Mayor Boris Johnson officially opened London’s first international convention centre (ICC) at Excel, and now believes London is equipped for a Top 10 place in the next ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) city rankings.
The mayor reportedly said ‘London doesn’t do 16th’ when told that the capital languished down the rankings of association conferences attracted by world cities.
Now a Top 10 berth could be within grasp. Chairman of Excel’s owner, Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC), Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon al Nahyan, flew in to witness the culmination of his company’s £165m investment, describing the completion of the ICC as “a landmark development for this great city”.
Although a mayoral commission had recommended an ICC be built in London back in 2004, it was, in the words of the mayor’s marketing chief Dan Ritterband, “our good friends in Abu Dhabi that fixed the problem for us”.
Kevin Murphy commended the 5,000-seat auditorium and 2,000-delegate Capital Suite, as well an extra 32,500sqm of events space, at the official opening in front of a VIP audience. He paid tribute to ADNEC’s vision and commitment to plans for development that previous owners had been “unwilling” to finance. The development continues, with a £50m, 252-room hotel to be operated by the Starwood Aloft brand and scheduled to open early 2012.
London Future Forum
A London Future Forum organised by the mayor’s office, Excel and the International Special Events Society (ISES), tested out Excel ICC’s new Capital Suite prior to the official opening ceremony.
A panel with representatives from Cisco (Excel’s technology provider), George P Johnson, Barclays Events and the mayor’s office led a discussion on London’s role in the global events industry. Facility and hotel availability for organisers and the need to improve the transport system in the capital dominated discussion.
Mayoral adviser Dan Ritterband described the Excel ICC as “the greatest addition to London’s offer in years”.
Ritterband told the audience to expect a new brand for London for the capital’s four main promotional bodies, including Visit London, to be combined in the future. “One commercial body would make things a lot clearer,” he believed.
George P Johnson senior VP and ISES board adviser, Kim Myhre, expected the new ICC venue “to make a big difference to attracting medical and technology events to London”. The new technology inside the venue added to the attraction, he noted.
Myhre questioned whether some of the transport analytics boasted by the Olympic delivery authorities would have been done if the Games had not been taking place.
Vice-president European marketing, Cisco, Amanda Jobbins, agreed “transport is an issue”, but thought London was competitive on price for big events and announced the Cisco Live European convention would come to Excel in January 2011, bringing 3,500 delegates. It would be the first year of a two-year deal for the event.
“Our people have always wanted to come to London. The new reason is the ICC facility,” she adds.
The Mayor closed the Forum, hailing the new Excel facility as “the greatest convention centre in the world in the greatest city in the world”.
Events booked at the Excel ICC are worth £300m to the London economy, according to Excel CEO Kevin Murphy. “London is moving east, watch this space,” he said.