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Our Update


Gold for industry-leading programme

Our Convention Bureau last month won Best Industry Partnership at the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) annual awards for their work with Newcastle University in attracting large-scale conferences to the North East. The Conference Ambassador Programme, delivered in partnership with the University, works with academics and researchers, as well as medical and business professionals, to bid for and bring international and national events to the North East. The programme has successfully secured hundreds of significant conferences for the region, delivering both economic impact and global profile.

Paul Szomoru, head of business tourism at NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau, said: “We are delighted to win this award and are proud to be recognised for our approach to building partnerships across the meetings industry. It is a huge honour to be voted for by industry professionals, thank you to everyone who voted for us.

“This award reinforces the strong relationship we have with Newcastle University to deliver the successful Conference Ambassador Programme as we continue to promote NewcastleGateshead and the North East, as a superb destination to host conferences and events. It also highlights the high-quality service we provide as well as the value and expertise of our team, who I’m immensely proud of.

“We value the proactive and productive working relationship we hold with Newcastle University and plan to develop and grow our Conference Ambassador Programme, building on our success of the past year and this prestigious accolade.”

Abi Kelly, executive director of corporate affairs at Newcastle University, said: “This is fantastic news for both the University and NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau as we continue to build on our strong working partnership.”

Ranked in the top 1% of universities in the world, Newcastle University is a world-class civic university with an international reputation for research excellence. Spearheading three major societal challenges that have a significant impact on global society: ageing, sustainability, and social renewal.

Abi continued: “Hosting academic conferences is one of the best ways we can raise our profile as a world-class civic university, and position the excellence of our research among our peers. Working in partnership with NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau, we are maximising opportunities to bring successful professional conferences and events to Newcastle University, enhancing both the reputation of the University and NewcastleGateshead as a great destination for conferences.”

Heather Lishman, association director at ABPCO said: “The judges felt that the collaborative approach taken by NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau and Newcastle University to co-own and support ‘best-fit’ conferences for NewcastleGateshead would enhance the reputation of all concerned.”

NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau helps to attract and secure major national and international conferences and events for the region, working with a wide range of venues and partners. The Convention Bureau team acts as a central point of contact for all conference organisers, providing free, impartial advice and unrivalled local knowledge.

ABPCO is the UK’s leading organisation for professional conference and event organisers, industry associates and those studying for, or seeking a career in the conference and meetings industry.

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NGI CEO awarded New Year’s Honour

Sarah Stewart has been recognised in the New Year Honours List 2016. Sarah, who has led our work to market the area nationally and internationally to attract visitors, conferences and events, and investment for the past six years, will receive an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). An OBE is awarded for having a major regional role and Sarah’s nomination for the award follows her significant role in driving forward the successful work of NewcastleGateshead Initiative to secure positive profile and economic growth for the North East.

Commenting on the news of Sarah’s award, NewcastleGateshead Initiative chair Paul Callaghan said: “She has been involved in so many important regional and national organisations over many years and I believe that it has been her vision, direction and leadership that have been so instrumental in their success.

“Under Sarah’s leadership, NewcastleGateshead Initiative has helped to grow the region’s visitor economy, achieved positive global media coverage about the area, attracted hundreds of major conferences and events to the region and secured new investment, creating and safeguarding jobs in some of our key sectors.

“She is extremely well respected, not just in NGI but also in the North East business community and nationally – and her integrity and ethical values are recognised and applauded. Sarah achieves all of this in an engaging and inspiring manner. She is a selfless individual and a fantastic ambassador for the region who is exceptionally deserving of an honour.”

In her current role, Sarah has played a critical role in leading the organisation’s promotion of NewcastleGateshead – changing outdated national and international perceptions, attracting growing numbers of leisure and business visitors, securing new conferences, events and investment and delivering significant economic impact for the area. Under Sarah’s leadership, the visitor economy in NewcastleGateshead is now worth £1.3bn and supports over 19,000 jobs, the destination was last year voted Favourite UK City by Guardian readers and major events such as the national tourism awards were secured for NewcastleGateshead.

Sarah moved to Newcastle in 1981 having recently graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in history and law. She spent her early career with Procter & Gamble (brand manager), Price Waterhouse (consultancy partner) and Sage Group plc (marketing director). Prior to joining NewcastleGateshead Initiative in May 2010, she was involved in a wide range of regional transformation projects with Newcastle Science City (interim director), International Centre for Life (deputy chair), Port of Tyne (deputy chair), Northern Investors Company (non-executive director) and Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust (board member). Sarah continues to hold a number of non-executive positions with VisitEngland, Arts Council North, Beamish Museum, Newcastle Cathedral, Newcastle University and Durham University Business School.

Sarah said: “This is a wonderful but completely unexpected surprise. I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the work of the whole NewcastleGateshead Initiative team – it is a truly remarkable organisation and I am proud to lead such a dedicated and talented team of individuals, without whose hard work, creativity and dedication we could not have achieved such positive results for the region.”

Supporting comments:

“Sarah is playing a critical lead role in the transformation of Newcastle as a visitor destination, and as a result generating new jobs, new opportunities for investment, and a vibrant city with a growing international reputation. 

“Sarah’s role is of national significance, and as a board member of VisitEngland she provides a vital connection between national agencies and local initiatives. She has conducted herself with a pride and passion for the North East, and made a major contribution to the success of the UK’s tourism economy.”
Nick Forbes, Leader, Newcastle City Council

“Sarah’s passion, pride and belief in the area is evident in all that she does. Her work represents a significant contribution to the region and has benefited many people directly and indirectly.”
Mick Henry, Leader, Gateshead Council

“Since becoming a director of Beamish in 2008, Sarah has provided inspirational leadership and support for the work of the museum during a period of dramatic change and growth.”
Richard Evans, Director, Beamish

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Invest Newcastle welcomes new recruits

Our Invest Newcastle team welcomes two new recruits this month who will play a key role in helping to both attract and secure new business investment and support existing business to expand and grow in the city. Ciara Small joins as senior inward investment manager, following a career in training and development and Matt Bratton will take up a position as inward investment executive, moving from his current role as assistant manager of The Core, Science Central’s landmark building. Both bring a wealth of relevant skills and networks to the organisation.

Leading work to light up the North

Our head of culture and major events, Carol Bell, recently returned from speaking at a symposium in Helsinki – with the aim of sharing best practice and building creative knowledge, greater capacity and new audiences for a consortium of light festivals across the North of England. Having delivered the hugely successful Enchanted Parks in Gateshead’s Saltwell Park for the past 10 years, we were asked to be lead partner for the Lighting up the North consortium, which is supported by Arts Council England and is providing exciting new opportunities for collaboration.

In recent years a number of outdoor light festivals have developed across the North of England and in October 2014 an inaugural meeting took place in York to discuss the establishment a network of light events and festivals across the North of England; Lighting up the North was born!

The aims of the consortium are to:

  • Enable critical discourse to create a shared understanding of measuring the quality of outdoor work.
  • Enable critical discourse to create a shared understanding of commissioning new work.
  • Build creative and practical knowledge.
  • Build capacity.
  • Develop new and share existing audiences.
  • Further creative / artistic ambition (potentially through co-presenting, co-commissioning / touring).
  • As a network look at ways in which we can improve / share successful models around talent development.
  • Explore options for more sustainable models for commissioning / funding.
  • Explore potential new partnerships, local, regional, national and international.
  • Develop this distinctive festival brand and strength in best practice in the North of England.

Lighting up the North partners are:

  • Blackpool CPP Project.
  • Enchanted Parks – NewcastleGateshead Initiative / Gateshead Council.
  • Light Night Leeds – Leeds City Council.
  • Light up Lancaster – Lancaster City Council.
  • Lumiere – Artichoke / Durham County Council.
  • Quays Culture.
  • Illuminating York – Make it York and The City of York Council.

As part of the Lighting up the North initiative, we are seeking to develop wider contacts with a number of light festivals across Northern Europe and were invited to the symposium in Helsinki which focused on future collaborations. At the meeting a number of festivals expressed interest in working together, including Prague, Madrid and Tallinn – to name just a few. We’re now working closely with colleagues in the North of England to explore how we take forward these new opportunities for joint working.

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Tourism trends event attracts expert speakers

The third in our series of tourism trends and insight events has proved a huge success, with a range of high-calibre speakers secured and delegates from more than 20 destinations across the UK signed up for the sell-out conference which takes place in London next month. Experts from VisitEngland, TripAdvisor, the English Premier League and Olery will all present at the event, which provides a great opportunity to reinforce our position as thought leaders in the tourism sector as well as explore new NGI Solutions business development opportunities.

Working in partnership with Acorn T-Stats – the online data management system for the tourism sector – we are hosting the conference at the Mary Sumner House, Westminster, on Tuesday 9 February. With such a broad range of delegates confirmed, the event brings together a wealth of experience in the tourism industry and will provide opportunities to collaborate and share experiences – which is at the heart of all of our insight events. If you’d like copies of the presentations or would like to receive details of future events, please email Nathan Shrubb, Research Executive: nathan.shrubb@ngi.org.uk

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