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No 'Ring Of Steel' For Labour And Mcr is 79th

‘City Conversation’ on Business Tourism presents the figures plus optimism and realism

Published on June 20th 2012.

No 'Ring Of Steel' For Labour And Mcr is 79th

THE city centre management company Cityco held one of their ‘City Conversations’ on Tuesday. The theme was business tourism.

Good news is that this year’s Labour Party conference at the end of September and the beginning of October will not involve a ‘ring of steel’, closed off roads, and security checks. Instead the life of the city will continue pretty much as usual.

Paul Simpson, Managing Director of Visit Manchester, revealed that tourism was worth £5.5bn to the Greater Manchester region and supported over 70, 000 jobs.

Business tourism is particularly valuable. Apparently corporate folk in Manchester for meetings, incentive, conference and events, spend three times as much as other visitors. Political conferences are worth £18-20m each time.

Good promotional work that gets results is the annual Manchester 'Live' event in London dragging together 300 conference bigwigs to chat about Manchester.

A pleasing figure is that conference business has shown a 43% growth since 2009 despite the struggling economy.

The city region has a £822m contribution from this sector, which also supports more than 20,000 jobs. Generally though, Manchester needs to work harder to bring international conferences and conventions to the city as these have a bigger impact in terms of reputation and putting direct cash into the city.

Angie Robinson, Chief Executive of Manchester Central (MC), said the exhibition complex in the city had hosted 116 events over the last year taking £7m in revenue and delivering a £66m contribution to the economy. It received over 380,000 visitors, and research has shown that for every pound spent by conference organisers, another £41 on average was spent elsewhere. 

Despite this success Manchester trails behind other British cities, being the 79th most popular conference city in the world, Glasgow is 58th.

Robinson acknowledged there was work to be done especially with the growth of Liverpool as a major competitor in the North West, and Leeds, as a competitor over the Pennines.

Manchester it appears doesn’t have the same amounts of money in the pot to woo would-be suitors as Liverpool. Worryingly by 2015 our Merseyside neighbour will have a larger convention facility than Manchester.

There are other issues with the MC complex too.

Robinson is determined to make MC a bigger presence in the city. She wants to light the place better, animate the large square in front. Staff are being re-trained to ensure they welcome delegates, visitors and the curious with a big smile and a default mechanism of saying ‘yes’ rather than ‘no’. Public tours will also be introduced. 

Good news is that this year’s Labour Party conference at the end of September and the beginning of October will not involve a ‘ring of steel’, closed off roads, and security checks. Instead the life of the city will continue pretty much as usual. There will be more fringe events at the conference than ever before.

Robinson conceded that the present MC website was ‘crap’. She acknowledged it needs to be improved as a matter of urgency.

Confidential thinks the same could be said for the over-designed Visit Manchester website - the main tourism portal - which is a barrier to people enjoying the city rather than an incentive to come and play in Manchester. For instance, presently on the homepage the 'Top 5 Buildings' are displayed, a painfully idiosyncratic and limited list, only one of which you can regularly access. It makes Manchester look immediately poor for the general tourist....and the business visitor wanting general information. 

Still, all in all this City Conversation was a cautiously optimistic, but realistic, appraisal of business tourism in the region. The comments from Robinson in particular showed how there is still a need to push business tourists out to other attractions across the city, but it's welcome that our slice of the pie has increased over recent years.

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27 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Phil MurphyJune 20th 2012.

I've just been to that visitManchester website and I have to agree, it's profoundly pathetic.

It seems they're trying to fit everything on one page - why? It's unintuitive, inconvevient and annoying (click 'home' when you are on the home page - it'll drive you mad).

Barton Aerodrome is not one of the five top 'freebies' available in Manchester (do you expect foreign visitors to understand that kind of slang)?

Why is it necessary to have a 'summer site' and why has it got afternoon tea in Salford and Dinosaurs in Chester as the two big summer attractions?

Oh I know, because the content was written in 2011 or 2010 (that ting tings gig was cancelled ages ago and central library will not be open, to my knowledge, in 2012, nor can people go to the town hall instead, that's closed too.

When you go to the food section and click for 'Chinese' why does it take you to a map showing one solitary restaurant in China Town?
When you click on Asian why does it take you to a map showing absolutely no restaurants on the Curry Mile?

When you click on 'show all' below 'Manchester Now' - presumably the cutting edge of happenings ported across from twitter, why does it show nothing at all?

Why, when you click on 'stay' does it show five hotels with 'Full Today' written beside ALL of them?

Why, on the 'events' page can I not access a calendar and only see until theend of July, and why is one of the July events a RADIO SHOW???

Why does the site not, given that it is summer, automatically take me to the summer site? And why does the summer site only feature events ... not a restaurant, building or any other type of attraction when Manchester does have an amazing range of attractions, things to do and places to go, why does the summer site not reflectthis in the slightest.

Why do you have a confusing and off putting display of mobile squiggles and avatars floating around the main page for absolutely no practical purpose what so ever?

Why is it so inaccessible, I can't even alter the text size?

Why does it not have multiple language options.

Why do you drive traffic AWAY from the site by having all of the 'share' and 'follow' lonks take visitors, unnecessarily, to a different website?

Why, when you are supposed to advertise the best Manchester has to offer, do you have adverts on the site that take you, again, off to a different website? (Especially when your site is so rubbish that you don't have a slight chance of earning anything of significance for hosting adverts. It should be a public service website, not an earner!

Why is so much of your content written for other websites and clearly not tailored. suitable or accurate. Such as that mentioned; the four out of five top inaccessible buildings. We have so many great buildings that you can visit AND enter that don't get a look in compared to those that you cannot go into.

Why is one of the top five family events BONFIRE NIGHT?

Why don't you just take the website down, you are probably actually driving visitors AWAY.

Why don't you go to visitberlin or similar and do something that clean, navigable, clear and intuitive?

Why, of why, oh why.

Thanks Mancon for bringing this rubbish to the fore, it had to be done.
Now can you point me to one really good visitor/tourist website please (except yours of course) so I can point people to it when they're coming to my fantastic home town, that reflects all that's happening here and all the places to visit?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Stuart AikenJune 26th 2012.

Hi Phil

Thanks for your comments, it’s always good to get fresh eyes on the site – clearly it isn’t static and we’ll be taking your points on board for future developments. We’ve fixed any incorrect content, unpublished anything out of date and you’ll be glad to know that we’re adding new features to the site in the next few weeks which will make it much easier to navigate.


Stuart @ visitmanchester.com

Phil MurphyJune 20th 2012.

Why does it cost 10p/min to phone the visitor information centre? You're charging your customers to make enquiries for heavens sake, that's lunacy!

Why, if you click the 'submit' button without entering an email address does it then re-present the page asking you to provide an email address on the form, WITHOUT A SUBMIT BUTTON?

Why when you then click 'back' does it take you to a list of visitor information centres (headed by Manchester's biggest t-shirt and mug corner shop) instead of just taking you BACK? (Probably something to do with the outstandingly poor site navigation?

Why does it have the number one family visitor attraction listed as Chinese new year, an event that took place in January. And why when you click that link does it take me to the Federation of Chinese Associations of Manchester where the primary website link presents a document dated 11th October 2011 to apply to sponsor their event that happened on Jan 12th 2012?

And why when I click on the number two family event does it take me to a page saying "Forthcoming Events: The 2011 events are now in the process of being added - be sure to check back often"?

Why, when I click on the number three family event does it take me to YET ANOTHER outside website where it states clearly "404 - Page not found"?

Why, when I click on the number five family event Bonfire Night does it take me to another outside website that has no mention of Bonfire Night on it's page?

You've equalled the four out of five buildings links in that four of the five are really quite poor advice, or worse.

I can't find one positive thing to say about the visitmanchester site.

Sort it out, please?


Phil MurphyJune 20th 2012.

Why ... when I search 'june' is the first result A RECIPE? And the third result an event that finished on Jun 15th (it's now jun 20th).

I'm not the only person that tends to hover their cursor close to the text they're reading. So why, when I'm reading the details of the above mentioned list, and put my cursor near the critical details, does it suddenly replace those details with a ridiculously large link?

Why, when I've clicked on the Follow Us on Facebook link does it take me away from your site, to your facebook page where when I click on the 'What's on' link does it take me to the worst page on the internet?
It's a ticketmaster app, that's it, that's supposed to tell people what's on all over our magical city? Another attempt to make some money from people wanting to know what might attract them to Manchester?

Why does your Visit Manchester Blog, for the weekend 15th-17th June have only three events, THREE? 575 people have viewed that page, 575 potential visitors that were potentially coming to Manchester and now think that one of the major events in Manchester that weekend was Horwich Festival of Racing in Bolton.

Why does your 'Greater Manchester Map' feature one solitary attraction, yes one - THE TRAFFORD CENTRE!

The visitmanchester website is an outrageously deplorable, worthless and feeble website. An insult to tourists and Mancunians alike.

Phil MurphyJune 20th 2012.

I'm going to lie down.

StephJune 20th 2012.

It's so bad because it's not based upon what would appeal to tourist and locals alike, instead it's based upon who pays to go on there

AnonymousJune 20th 2012.

A rant to end all rants - well done Phil Murphy.

philderedJune 21st 2012.

An excellent summary by Mr Murphy on how not to attract and guide visitors, I agree, it needs shutting down and starting from scratch. However, I'm more concerned around the comments that Liverpool could take over as the
leading conference and convention center as they have more money in the pot to invest - where exactly have Liverpool got this money from and why are we falling behind in the investment stakes ??

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 21st 2012.

In short, the money has come almost entirely from the public purse:

European Objective One monies and its legacy funds of which Merseyside gains the lions share thanks to its Objective 1 status;

Central Government match funding to the Objective One funding;

Specialist regeneration funding. Merseyside receives a much greater proportion of current regeneration funding such as the Regional Growth Fund, North West Funds and JESSICA;

Various rewards gained by taking the Government's bribes to install a mayor without referendum amounting to some £130m one-off grant (£77m direct Government grant matched by DCLG and HCA), additional enterprise zones, mayoral development zone, exclusive invites to trade missions and a place at Cameron's mayoral 'top table'.

Legacy funding from earlier regeneration schemes and bodies such as Housing Market Renewal, NWDA, HCA. Again, Merseyside received a greater proportion of these funds, partly due to its greater levels of deprivation, lower rates of economic activity but also due to some shrewd and emotional politiking and no little central political patronage.

Liverpool has been held up by successive governments as an almost totemic example of how central government 'cares' about the north and has had vast amounts of funding flung its way for generations.

AnonymousJune 22nd 2012.

Which is Ironic because the people of liverpool think sucsessive governments have done nothing but screw them.

In conference terms though the important thing is the liverpool areana and convention center is new (4 years old?) and purpose built for modern needs and manchesters facilities are older.

Jonathan SchofieldJune 21st 2012.

Crikey Phil, that's a fabulously forensic dissection of the VisitManchester website

Poster BoyJune 21st 2012.

...anyone think Phil Murphy will be getting a call to design somebody's new website shortly...

Phil MurphyJune 21st 2012.

Here's an extract from Manchester Tourist Board's 2012 - 13 Destination Management Plan:
"visitmanchester.com has undergone a complete
redevelopment, with unique visitors growing from
785,000 in 2008 to a level that will exceed two million
by the end of 2011/12. The new website has taken a
distinct and bold step away from the traditional tourist
board approach and incorporates real time information
from real people, delivering a genuine, honest
interpretation of the city.
Improvements have also been made in the consistency
and use of data on the destination management system,
which now feeds both the MVIC and visitmanchester.com."

They reckon two million visitors go to visitmanchester.com, left confused, mislead and with an almost entirely erroneous view of what Manchester has to offer visitors. If perhaps one percent of those visitors were put off visiting by that site, we lost 20,000 tourists. Even if their average spend was only £100 each our local economy is £2,000,000 worse off.

And they've got the nerve to portray it as successful. They obviously don't monitor, assess or visit it at all. Disastrous hands-off management.

Their 'distinct and bold step' has been an unmitigated failure.

AnonymousJune 22nd 2012.

Visit Manchester's main site might be rubbish but the seasonal campaign thing is great. http://summer.visitmanchester.com really easy to find out what's going on and where, the main site can't have been made by the same people surely?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Phil MurphyJune 22nd 2012.

Yeah it's okay isn't it?

Except of course that the first third of the page appears to show things happening in the past. You've got to scroll down a fair bit to find something dated in the future.
That in itself is very misleading because some of those things dated prior to today are in fact still happening but it doesn't tell you that, and it should.

Oh and naturally a lot of visitors will want somewhere to stay and it doesn't feature accommodation. At all.
Or places to drink, or clubs.
It also highlights not one solitary restaurant or take away.

Also, if you might be visiting in August, or any time later in the year, you're snookered. I fails to feature a calendar and you can only see what events are happening in the next few weeks.

It's a woeful and meagre little wart on the backside of the visitmanchester.com site.

It also fails to mention anything what so ever about Manchester. It is just an events page and a page of adverts they call offers.

If you want more information you have to go back to the other, is it the winter site, main website.

That's because the summer website, which is a completely different design with an totally opposing layout. It is effectively a different website.

It's a cheap little add-on that, I expect, they've thrown together on a shoe string at the beginning of this year when they realised that the abomination of a site launched in 2010 catered mainly for 2010-11. They suddenly realised it wasn't flexible enough to integrate what's going on in 2012.

It is a tiny indicator that in fact they looked and realised that they'd blown a fortune on something that became almost immediately obsolete. But they carried on spinning it regardless.

But yeah, it's great. Unless you're a tourist or visitor going there in the hope that the Manchester Tourist Board might have put up a useful visitmanchester.com website that will help you plan a tour or a visit. As opposed to a few hours.

AnonymousJune 22nd 2012.

Manchester is more than the top 5 in any thing!

We are all part of a vibrant and inspiring city, vist manchester should champion the local, independent and different businesses as well as the big boys

1 Response: Reply To This...
DavidJune 22nd 2012.

You right Manchester is a vibrant city and better than other regional British cities.But that is inspite of the shambling one party Labour rule.If we actually had had political leadership that matched the creative talent of this city we would have been up with the likes of Barcelona and Milan 20 years ago.

philderedJune 24th 2012.

Thanks to those who responded with my query on where Liverpool was getting it's money from.

Back to Manchester, the history of the place proves that its a great city for innovation, maybe the best, but why oh why are we so bad at selling ourselves and the great people from the area who helped change the world for the better ? The visitmanchester web site is a classic example, we have the oppurtunity to promote ourselves and fail miserably

Freeman Dyson the great american physicist once said that Manchester and Athens were the most important cities to have ever existed in terms of contributions to civilization as a whole. That comment should be the first thing that registers when a visitor accesses a manchester related website.

1 Response: Reply To This...
DavidJune 24th 2012.

Liverpool might have better conference facilities as a result of the E U but it's economic performance compared to Manchester is much worse.It has far less business start ups and worse unemployment.Also neither of the two main political parties seem keen on holding their conferences there.

AnonymousJune 24th 2012.

Maybe, but this Dyson chap's not quite a household name.

AnonymousJune 24th 2012.

Why is Manchester so bad at selling itself? Maybe its partly to do with the fact that the most potent symbol of the city's culture, its building stock, is simply not valued and all too easily falls prey to the bulldozer.

Next week the planning application to demolish the lovely set of buildings that house the famous Twisted Wheel / Legends club will most likely be approved. Further down the line Granada House will be gone and two iconic bits of our identity will be gone forever.

Just what the future occupants of the inevitable budget hotel that takes their place will come to visit is unclear. Oh yes, there is always the footy!

tblzebraJune 25th 2012.

You might find this interesting Phil Murphy (et al) it's from when the website was launched:

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 26th 2012.

Sometimes being original and modern doesn't quite fit the bill.

AnonymousJune 28th 2012.

Manchester needs to trade partly on its great industrial past and encourage manufacturing once again in the region to get it truly back on the map. Use the talent coming through from pioneering invention hub: Madlab in Ancoats and the Sharp Project in Monsall and set regional competitions for innovation and design to keep standards high and to help the city's employment potential. Set the pace. The lead does not have to come from the top either. It will all come full circle its just a shame that many of the cotton mills that once dominated have been pulled down or revamped, so now what? Trade off its football successes? Well thats great from a tourist angle ( but mainly seasonal) and great if your'e a fan, but its not a sustainable business model. We could aim to be the pioneers we once were and look more to the future and compete with Bristol and Brighton to become the greenest city? The green jobs we were promised could become a reality with the correct people on board. The leaders have to stop thinking about politics and power and focus on people and jobs, housing and environment and whats best for this city. Fully include leaders from all parties on the decision making too and the public so that everyone gets a say, these are not decisions to be taken lightly and we all have to live with the outcome. Many buildings that are deemed inefficient now could be retrofitted easily with a lot less cost than demolition, possibly attract heritage funding so lets make use of our apprentices, graduates and skilled redundant folk and help our culturally important eyesores that are falling into states of disrepair. More recycling, upcycling of furniture and equipment exchanges too can help businesses cashflow positions. Green roofing/photovoltaic tiles/wind turbines/water butts can all co-exist in modern and older style buildings and really should become the norm here. On another note, we have Peregrine falcons here so lets encourage this city to become a tourist haven for wildlife enthusiasts. This could become a positively important moneyspinner if done correctly. We are the home of Co-operatives in Manchester so lets capitalise on the CIS buildings photovoltaic cladding and carry on with the same vein in making Manchester as carbon neutral as possible, exceeding targets for climate change. Northwards housing are doing it with their housing stock reducing bills for tenants in the process. There are new eco homes in Moss Side which is a step forward. You cannot trade off tourism alone, its dangerous, it heavily impacts on the day to day workings of the city as a whole because its such a small place it sure aint the London folk expect it to be. Maybe if we had a better mixture of younger less jaded and power hungry leaders this city would stand a chance of better empowering its people. Maybe they secretly dont want that otherwise i cant understand why some of these things havent demonstrably been put into place already. As a whole we can make change happen and put pressure on those who make the decisions that affect us all. This needs to be a cross party effort from all sides though tories and all for a change, to push it all through. Lets see eh....

1 Response: Reply To This...
Phil MurphyJuly 4th 2012.

The tourist sector is an important part of a much bigger jigsaw.
I agree with a lot of what you're saying anon, I suspect though that many people aren't aware of some of the successes that we can celebrate.
One of the newest large office buildings in Manchester has a massive ground source geothermal supplementary system built in, and rainwater
Another, in a different part of the city centre has been judged by the most popular environmental assessment criteria in the world to be amongst the top three percent of multi-tenanted offices in the UK.
Both of those buildings were influenced in this direction by MCC and both, several years after construction, are still trying to achieve full occupancy.
If the commercial green deal, when it eventually arrives, incentivises commercial organisations and PLCs to operate out of buildings that have made these investments in more sustainable buildings we may see these buildings fill up and become the preferred option.
The reason that residential communities under housing associations appear to be leading the way is because they're getting financial incentives to do so, other sectors are not.
I'd love to see Manchester leading the way in this field but it has got a long way to go even when only compared to the rest of the UK.
Internationally when you consider that 50% of Germany's newly built commercial roof space is green roof, and that for one weekend in June the whole of Germany got 50% of its power from solar panels, you realise just how far behind we are not just as a city but as a kingdom.
If the government don't guide the UK's economy and the commercial sector in that direction, you can expect it to be a secondary consideration of the planners and architects that are designing and specifying our urban future.

Phil MurphyJuly 9th 2012.

They may not have had the spine to respond, but they clearly took note and have made some changes to the website.

paulsouthernJuly 10th 2012.

Still no good though, just clicked Whats On, then Food & Drink, then Chinese or indian or italian etc. Only thing I get is 'Your search returned no results, try something else'. something else obviously is cook myself as Manchester has no restaurants whatsoever!

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