Although it has been 28 years since the M25 was built, many within the meetings industry still seem to have a crippling fear of hosting their association event or AGM outside of the capital.
Obviously there are many attractions to hosting an event in London, it is indeed a hub of political, cultural and social power. But to think it is the only city in the UK to offer an influential or inspirational environment for business is not only naïve, but just plain wrong.
One school of thought suggests that if an association wants to make a difference in the corridors of power, they need an MP to attend, and if you want an MP to attend, you should make it as easy as possible for them, making London the obvious choice. This is despite the grumbles from members who begrudge having to permanently travel to the capital in order to attend.
But is that a good enough reason for the capital to win out each and every time? Surely association board members should be looking out for the interests of the membership, not solely on the conveniences of MPs - many of whom would never leave Westminster if given half the chance.
Let’s not forget, for all the perks of the big city there are negatives. Besides being one of the most expensive cities in the world, let alone the UK, London is not always the easiest place to navigate your way around. Public transport can be frustratingly unreliable, including the occasional city-stopping strike and the elusive ‘signal failure’ which often stops anyone getting anywhere on time, or sometimes at all.
So what is the alternative? Well, a visit to the home counties can be easily accessed from several major stations, with journey times seemingly as quick as attempting to get a taxi from one side of the river to the other. In fact, it is incredibly easy to host an event, or indeed base a business outside of London, without members, delegates, or even MPs feeling like they’re sat away from the action.
Head even further afield and you may find financial benefits are associated with such a move. A recent survey showed that 70% of total event expenditure in London is spent on accommodation. Could the same really be said for Birmingham, York or Manchester?
Cambridge, where Robinson College is based, is just 45 minutes from Kings Cross station in central London and is considered to be one of the most academic, historical, picturesque and multicultural cities within the UK. The city is continually developing and offers so much to businesses and associations who choose to hold meetings there.
I am not trying to suggest that Cambridge, or any other destination is a better location than London, I am saying that there is more to the UK meetings industry than just London. Different locations each have something of value to offer, to dismiss them entirely in favour of the capital is questionable and takes for granted the exceptional facilities and remarkable cities that the UK has to offer.