Welcome to the Meeting and Event Planning Guide to London, written with meeting planners in mind. The stunningly successful, “happy and glorious” 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games didn't just transform the image of London, they also delivered massive improvements to its meetings, conferences and events infrastructure, its accommodation stock and its transportation systems. With all the refurbishment, London is re-confirmed as one of the world's greatest business and events destinations.
While meeting planners can now take advantage of the huge improvements that have been generated by London's hosting of the Olympic Games, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will not fully re-open until Easter 2014 when it becomes Europe's largest urban regeneration scheme (the size of nearly 300 soccer pitches) with even better access provided by CrossRail, Europe's biggest construction project which is due to open in 2017. This huge urban renewal project has already transformed East London and it will soon provide a huge range of new and iconic sporting, cultural and business facilities just a few miles from the already massive ExCel exhibition complex.
London's investment in its transportation infrastructure, its efficient "Underground" subway system and the ever-present black taxis and red buses mean that visitors, guests and delegates will be able to get around with ease. Six airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead, Luton, London City and London Southend provide unrivalled international connections – make London one the world's most accessible capital cities.
London's glittering nightlife and dining scene lends itself to private events that will tempt guests to break out of the boardroom and the hotel bar. For instance, lavish receptions for up to 70 guests can be held among the hand-strung pearl adornments at Pearl Restaurant and Bar in High Holborn. Moroccan and North African influenced decor can create a sumptuous setting for groups of up to 140 guests at Kenza. No. 5 Cavendish Square, with three bars, a restaurant, a roof terrace and eight boutique hotel suites, can accommodate business events of any type or size and its ground floor, complete with an outdoor terrace, is a lively venue for up to 180 people.
Cultural venues are also sure to give guests the feeling of a true London experience. The prestigious Tate Modern has spaces for private events, including a restaurant capable of accommodating up to 350 guests, while the Royal Academy of Arts near Piccadilly Circus is available for events of up to 800 people. Groups can also give any meeting an exotic backdrop at the recently renovated Blackburn Pavilion at the London Zoo, or the more formal yet still breathtaking atmosphere at one of several event facilities at Kew Gardens.
Certainly, traditional event centers have a place among such attractions, and London boasts several large and impressive conference and exhibition centers. The 90,000-square-meter ExCeL Exhibition Centre has already hosted well over 1,500 national and international events. The Business Design Centre, based on Upper Street in Islington, features an impressive main exhibition hall of 6,000 square meters and welcomes over 80 exhibitions and 250 conferences each year. The Centre lays claim to being the first all-in-one trade, exhibition and conference complex in the UK.
With stunning views of the Tate Modern, the Globe Theatre, the mighty Thames and the Millennium Bridge, the Mermaid Conference & Events Centre boasts a stunning backdrop and uniquely modern lighting and decor, not to mention a prestigious guest list that has included KPMG, BBC and Pricewaterhouse Coopers. The Centre accommodates up to 600 guests to presentations in a spacious auditorium; or opt for an intimate dinner for 100 to 170 in its Blackfriars or River rooms. For a venue with a more traditional look, Alexandra Palace, opened at the end of the 19th century and based within 196 acres of parkland that overlooks London, is a timeless venue for large groups to enjoy exhibitions, conferences and ceremonies, as its Great Hall accommodates from 2,500 to 7,250 guests. And in Westminster, the prestigious and popular Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre has four large auditoriums and seven conference rooms that host up to 400 meetings annually.
London is home to some of the most high-profile companies in the world, covering all sectors from banking and finance to media and advertising. The London Stock Exchange is also a pull for the thousands who work in the heart of the city and in nearby Canary Wharf. Major companies including JP Morgan, Ernst and Young, Barclays Capital, CitiGroup, Credit Suisse, Bank of America and Clifford Chance are in London and various news and media companies including Reuters and BBC are also based in the city.