The north of England is fast becoming an all-consuming ‘Powerhouse’. It will help rebalance the economic power away from London, create more jobs and have a multi-billion pound rail system.
However, two of the north of England’s important and famous cities would argue they have plenty to offer already. Liverpool and Manchester share many similarities but are also steeped in rivalry: both would lay claim to having the best of everything – music scene, football team, university… whether it’s debating the 1960s’ beat-groups in Liverpool and the ’90s’ ‘Madchester’ scene, or Manchester United versus Liverpool FC, both cities can put forward compelling arguments.
Both also claim to be star players as MICE destinations. Paul Bayliss is GM of the Macdonald Manchester Hotel. He believes the city’s accessibility gives it an edge. “Manchester boasts fantastic transport connections from the south and overseas,” he says. “It is extremely successful in attracting conference and events business. It can offer a rich culture, an array of venues and brilliant accessibility, all at a fraction of the cost compared to other big cities across the EU.”
Portman Travel director John Dick says, for both cities to better compete with rival cities for MICE business, then ease of access is crucial. “Rail access is adequate, but there’s little doubt more and faster rail services add to the appeal when competing with overseas destinations or UK destinations.”
He adds that while few cities can take on capitals such as Paris and London, Manchester and Liverpool are “well equipped” to compete against most European cities as business destinations.
Meanwhile, at Liverpool’s new Aloft hotel, GM Andrew Kendrick says the city’s “thirst for innovation” and landmark venues mean it can compete with major European players in attracting international and local events of all sizes.
With the two north-west giants looking for ever-more opportunities to harness meetings spend, BBT takes a look at what both cities can offer as MICE destinations.
Manchester Airport is thriving. In July, the international airport saw 2.5 million passengers pass through: a 6.1 per cent year-on-year increase in traffic. This brought its annual rolling total to a record 22.6 million. These figures followed the announcement that Manchester airport will undergo a £1 billion transformation programme over the next ten years. The scheme will more than double the size of Terminal 2 and link it to an improved Terminal 3 – in total there will be around 60 enhancements at the airport.
These improvements should help the city be more competitive when attracting business and events to the UK, although the airport already serves more than 70 airlines and 210 destinations, bringing £1.8 billion to the regional economy every year and employing 20,000 people.
Link Manchester Airport, Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport (LJLA) is also undergoing a resurgence, with a 6 per cent increase in passenger traffic for the first half of 2015, compared to the same period a year earlier. LJLA carried more than 431,000 passengers in July compared to 403,000 in 2014 – the sixth consecutive month of growth.
New routes, a £2.4 million operating profit and a successful debt reduction plan has put the airport in a strong position for the future over the next few years.
In August, parent company, the Peel Group, guaranteed its financial future with a long-term agreement with lenders that will underpin a major investment programme at the airport over the next five years.
Although the airport cannot compete with Manchester in terms of route network or passenger numbers, its importance to the city cannot be understated. In July it was named Business of the Year at the City of Liverpool Business Awards in recognition of the contribution it makes to the region.
Manchester City centre may be lacking a volume of hotels compared to rival European destinations such as London, Berlin and Barcelona, but it can match them for range – from iconic to budget to high-end, the city centre has properties to match most business travel budgets.
The landmark Hilton Manchester Deansgate, which opened in 2006, is a 47-storey mixed-use building. It dominates the skyline and is home to the Cloud 23 bar, the highest venue in the city, which can host private events accommodating up to 100 guests.
The Midland, Lowry and Radisson Blu Edwardian make up the city’s high-end offering, all with ample meetings space, while four-star properties Hotel Football Old Trafford – aptly situated on Sir Matt Busby Way – and Macdonald Manchester Piccadilly run them close for quality.
At the budget end of the spectrum, there is a Premier Inn, Ibis and Travelodge, all within a ten-minute walk of Piccadilly railway station.
Liverpool is dominated by the Beatles, and the Four-themed Hard Day’s Night Hotel is a luxury property which can cater for up to 150 people in three event rooms inspired by the iconic group. The Live Lounge hosts some of the city’s best live performers every Friday and Saturday night. For similar iconic/boutique hotels, see the Sir Thomas Hotel, Hope Street Hotel and Titanic Hotel.
The city also boasts a Hilton, Malmaison and new-kid-on-the-block Aloft Liverpool, which caters for the younger business traveller.