The changing face of Birmingham

NEC Group Conventions and Exhibitions


This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce to provide industry insight on the findings of the Birmingham Economic Review. 

The Birmingham Economic Review 2017 is produced by the University of Birmingham’s City-REDI and the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, with contributions from the West Midlands Growth Company. It is an in-depth exploration of the economy of England’s second city and is a high quality resource for organisations seeking to understand Birmingham to inform research, policy or investment decisions.

This post is featured in Chapter 10: The Visitor Economy of the Birmingham Economic Review, which can be found here. You can read the full report and report summary here.

I always say it’s a wonderfully telling indictor of progress and vibrancy within a city to look out at the landscape and see how many cranes you can count. Cities that are moving forward always have lots of cranes in the sky, and you only have to look at what’s been happening in Birmingham over the last few years to feel that buzz of a city continuing its transformation.

This is not only good for Birmingham and the wider Midlands area, but the backdrop of how a city looks and feels is really important to businesses like the NEC Group. To many of our customers, the relative attractiveness of what Birmingham and the wider area can offer their audience will be extremely valuable. They understand that the experience they offer isn’t limited to the confides of their event as many visitors’ tag time onto their trip to explore the city and its surrounding areas.

As we grow the NEC Group, a positive outcome is that we are bringing more people to the region. On an annual basis, we already host over seven million visitors and as we look to further expand our core business, this number will continue to grow.

For the NEC, we have introduced the long-stay concept and have recently finished hosting Dinosaurs in the Wild, which took up residence with us for nine-weeks over the summer. This was a global launch, and it was very telling that they chose Birmingham over any other city in the world to showcase their new concept. Although, with Birmingham’s rich heritage in innovation, it perhaps isn’t surprising.

We then have aspirations to further grow our conference and live events division. Following significant investment in seating, we have a very compelling seating proposition that puts us is a strong position for attracting international associations and brands that may not have previously thought about bringing events to Birmingham.

Outside our core business we have an ambitious leisure strategy which looks at all the external space on the NEC campus – as well as some of our halls – to see how we can incorporate more content that ultimately attracts more visitors. We have exciting plans in the pipeline with Merlin, both at the NEC and also Arena Birmingham, that will see this part of our strategy come to life in 2018.

We are looking for opportunities that show the immense flexibility of the venue and its surrounding campus, perhaps in a way others wouldn’t have thought of using us before, and help to bring the eyes of the world onto Birmingham.

As a Group, we have been heavily involved in the bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which, with the Birmingham’s sporting history and existing infrastructure to host competitive events, I believe to be very powerful. If successful, the overall impact on the NEC Group venues will be considerable. It will add another string to our bow, but also put the spotlight on the city in a way that will show how much it is has grown.   We see no reason, why in the future, the NEC Group cannot host multiple international events every year.

Kathryn James
Managing Director, NEC Group Conventions and Exhibitions 
The NEC Group