How Planners Are Using More London Venues for Meeting & Event Space

The Sky Garden London
The Sky Garden, London

During the annual Torchbearers event in Bermuda last month, we talked to Chris Lynn, VP, sales/marketing NA, at London & Partners, about how planners are now using the entire city of London as a meeting venue. They’re tying together the traditional West End with the trendy Shoreditch area, the new Olympic Park in the East End, and various modes of transportation connecting it all together.

He explained that more and more Millennial attendees want a local experience, so they’re taking the Underground or DLR monorail to cool London venues, for example, which can both be branded, or the Thames River boats that travel to The O2 arena.

“You can now travel from Big Ben for a 30-minute transfer by boat and then a 5-minute transfer to the convention center,” said Lynn. “And by future-thinking, London put the cable car in for the Olympic Games, which connected our two major convention venues—The O2 and ExCel London. That allows two venues to think more about working together.”

Asked how the buzzy Tech City UK district in Shoreditch appeals to planners, Lynn said all of the creative and tech energy provides a ton of fresh inspiration for cutting edge thinking, as well as a raft of “very robust venues” at a lower price point than the West End.

“It’s about people daring to dream,” he continued. “If people have to travel far to get there, immerse them in a place like Shoreditch. How often do we hear how people are time starved? You know, they say, ‘I didn’t get to see the city, I only saw the four walls of a ballroom.’”

Then we asked Lynn what kind of trends he’s seeing in the market.

“We’re seeing a lot more TED-style events, or like in South by Southwest in Austin—the unconvention if you will,” answered Lynn. “You still need the critical mass of people to come together, so it’s not taking away the basic concept, which is face-to-face. But it’s how you do that differently. With people increasingly looking at different seating plans, different dining plans, how do you get them to interact more? And how do you reach the new audience, the Millennials? There’s also a lot more gamification, and having the right technology infrastructure built into your venues, and having the right pricing to support that.”

Lynn pointed out a lots of new things are being developed in England’s capital applicable for planners. Here a look at some of the most compelling.

The newest addition to London’s dramatic skyline, The Sky Garden at the top of the 20 Fenchurch Street skyscraper opens in January. It houses two restaurants, three event spaces and a private dining room, hosting groups from 20 to 450 pax.

The 359-room Morgans London at Sea Containers hotel opened last week to much aplomb on the city’s South Bank. The exclusive rooftop bar has breathtaking views across the river, and the main restaurant is operated by New York’s dynamic chef Seamus Mullen. The menu combines the best of British and American cuisine, with many fresh ingredients sourced from nearby Borough Market.

New York-based Gansevoort Hotel Group is also opening their first London property in ultra-hip Shoreditch on the east of the city. The 120 room-property includes 6,000 sf of dedicated meeting and event space, and a rooftop pool.

The iconic Selfridges shopping mecca is opening an in-store 60-seat cinema, screening award-winning films from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to The Wolf of Wall Street.

The Berkeley London hotel is hosting a rooftop winter cinema over fall and winter season. Handmade wooden, chalet-inspired cabins overlook busy Knightsbridge.

For the incentive crowd, E-Voyages DMC launched a Sherlock Holmes-themed London experience. Explore everything from his famous address at 221b Baker Street to The Sherlock Holmes Museum, where the detective’s famous study has been recreated as described in the books.

And new this month, The Standard Grill in New York’s Meatpacking District is coming to London’s Marylebone. Part of Andre Balazs’ boutique hotel at Chiltern Firehouse, the trendy restaurant is always popular with steak lovers. It’s definitely one of our favorite restaurants in Manhattan.

“London is booming and many of America’s biggest hoteliers and restaurants have recognized this by opening their first British venues in the capital,” summed up Lynn. “London really has it all, combining its dramatic 2,000-year heritage with chic and contemporary restaurants, bars and venues.”