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INSIGHT: Location, Location, Location: Why London remains a global leader for business events

07 February 2024

Author: Jane Hague, Head of Business Development at ExCeL London


Norman Foster once said, “I travel continuously, and I see many cities, but there is nowhere like London.” A pioneer in British modernist architecture, Foster knows better than most what makes a city look good.

As a conference destination, this view of London is widely held. When we asked hundreds of delegates to select the three cities where they would most like to go to a conference, two-thirds put London at the top [1]. But what does this mean for the city’s future? Can its star shine even brighter?

In the wake of a global pandemic, London’s resilience as a hub for business events is impressive. Based on a survey of 250 delegates, and in-depth interviews with experts from across the conference industry, ExCeL’s new thought leadership report Event with Intent finds that the city leads the world for business events.

As international competition in the conference industry reignites, now is the time for London to further cement its status as a leader within the market by investing further in its incredible facilities and infrastructure.

We recently announced our plans for a 25,000sqm expansion to the east of our current venue. Due to finish in 2024, the programme will create an additional state-of-the-art ICC convention centre, along with exhibition halls, conference rooms and public green spaces. But we need investment in other areas too.


Transport, for London: Does connectivity make a difference?

When it comes corporate events, what makes a destination appealing? Transport links often top the list, but London’s network is a particular USP. To maximise the benefits of its global appeal, London’s transport network needs a cash injection.

It’s clear from our research that more public transport investment would boost the conference industry: when asked how much convenient travel links, such as direct flights to the city and good public transport to the venue, affect their decision to go to an event, 88% of attendees said it has a high or very high impact.

We also found that event delegates rate London’s transport links highly, with an average score of 4.5/5. Many cited the introduction of the Elizabeth line, connecting ExCeL directly to Heathrow and central London, which is now the UK’s most popular trainline [2].

As the competition to attract conferences heats up – and with an eagerly awaited announcement on tube fares expected soon from Mayor Sadiq Khan [3]- London must capitalise on its stellar reputation by investing further in its transport network. While the £250 million of capital expenditure to be provided by the UK government in 2024/2025 is a start, there’s ample room for more.

Our research also shows that good transport links across the city make networking beyond the conference easier, as attendees connect with contacts outside of the event itself. In London, which according to research by the City of London Corporation remains the world’s leading financial hub [4], this accessibility is especially attractive.

To take advantage of its top spot, the city must offer a commercial and regulatory environment that attracts the world’s largest businesses, encouraging them to set up shop in London. Through 2024 and beyond, demand for the UK capital as a conference destination looks set to grow, as event delegates, organisers and exhibitors agree: There is nowhere like London. The time is right for the city to cement and elevate its leading position as the top location for business events.  

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