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International Women’s Day: Situation is better but ‘not perfect’

Jill Manley, business development director at ICC Wales, looks at the role of women in the events industry.

 How do you think the role of women has changed over the course of your career?
I’ve been working in the hospitality and events industry for 30 years and have seen many changes in this time. The situation for women in the workforce today is better than it’s ever been, but it’s not perfect. Personally, I’ve always been very lucky that these issues have not affected my career path. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with directors who have always respected ability and determination, regardless of gender.

It is also interesting to note that all of the senior sales directors and managers currently employed at ICC Wales are female, showing just how far women have come within our business and in this industry. I know that is not always the case for women in business and we still have some way to go to ensure that women feel confident to grasp the same opportunities that men do. All businesses have a responsibility to support all their staff and this is something that we’re passionate about at ICC Wales.

 What are your aims and objectives for ICC Wales in 2019?
This is our opening year and a crucial one for ICC Wales. We will never have a second chance to make a first impression so it is essential that we hit the ground running and ensure we get ICC Wales on the map and creating a buzz throughout the meetings industry. We have already seen a big uplift in interest at the start of the year, with the number of enquiries in January four times more than we saw in January 2018. So the message is definitely out there the closer we get to opening, and we need to ensure we continue this momentum by showing more clients our fantastic new venue with our hard hat tours of the site and familiarisation visits.

Jill Manley, business development director at ICC Wales.

Jill Manley, ICC Wales.

We have some great events booked in for this September including the UK Space Conference and we are very much looking forward to welcoming our first delegates to the venue. Outside the peak times for conference business, we are creating an exciting new venue for Christmas parties and are working with event producers to bring a spectacular show to ICC Wales during the Christmas period.

While we are focused on making a real impact with our launch, we are also planning for the long-term and are in advanced negotiations to bring more of the larger national and international events to ICC Wales. We will be busy recruiting ambassadors in the key sectors to help bring these events to Wales along with all the benefits they will bring to the local economy.

In terms of revenue, what are the figures that ICC Wales is bringing in for the MICE industry?
We have £4m worth of events on the books already, with another £20m of prospective business in the pipeline. We have more than 40 events booked already, and tens of thousands of delegates set to visit ICC Wales during these events.

What are the biggest challenges for the industry?
For event planners, demonstrating ROI on events will continue to be important, not just in terms of tangible business made as a result of attending, but also access to top experts, new knowledge and great future business contacts. Clients are also increasingly looking for something a little bit different and for some innovation in their events. Technology is also constantly changing and bringing fresh challenges but, as a brand new venue, we are in a fantastic position to address these and adapt to the most recent trends.

A key trend at the moment is well-being and good health and we have made sure we have built these into the delegate experience at ICC Wales. Our Mind, Body, Soul food offering is designed to nourish with goodness, upping energy levels across the exhibition floor and enriching conversations throughout the conference. The woodland space right outside the venue means delegates can step straight out of the convention centre into ponder pod, outdoor breakout areas.

What is the effect of Brexit on the UK meetings industry?
As with many industries, Brexit is presenting a few questions and challenges to the MICE world because of all the uncertainty surrounding it. As a creative, adaptable and resourceful sector, I am sure that the meetings industry will continue to thrive in spite of these challenges. We will just have to move with the challenges just as we did when we were hit by the recession back in 2008. Like then, we will have to listen to our clients and respond to their needs.