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Let's meet in… southeast Wales
Wales is one of the UK nations raising its profile among global conference and incentive planners. Martin Donovan focuses on one region of the principality

8 Feb 2018

USPs

Parents in Asia seeking college places for their children in the UK are likely to have come across educational institutions in Wales. Partly as a result, cities such as Cardiff and Swansea are becoming familiar places for Chinese students visiting friends and family thanks to the network of Asian students in the UK.

The first major landmark visitors to South Wales are likely to see after crossing the Severn Bridge from England is the edifice of Celtic Manor Resort rising above Newport. Alongside the Celtic Manor an international conference centre – ICC Wales – is being built. Once open in 2019, the facility will join a host of venues across England and Scotland vying for global events as Britain completes its divorce from the European Union.

The Celtic Manor, which will manage ICC Wales, hosted golf’s Ryder Cup in 2010 and the NATO Summit in 2014, two events that required high security and drew international scrutiny.

The region’s profile also soared as English Premier League cup finals and other major EPL soccer matches were held at the 78,000-seater Principality Stadium in Cardiff. The stadium in the centre of the Welsh capital also hosted the more recent UEFA Champions League Cup Final, but is more known as the ground of the Wales rugby team.

 

VENUES

ICC Wales – Set to open in June 2019 alongside the 400-guest room Celtic Manor Resort, two major events – one an association, the other an exhibition – have already been booked. The GBP83.7 million (about US$112m) venue will provide 26,000 sqm of meeting space to accommodate 5,000 delegates and will feature a 4,000 sqm pillar-free main hall.

The Exchange Hotel – When the South Wales Valleys helped fuel the British Empire, the price of coal was set in this building. Today, following renovation by Signature Living Group, The Exchange is a 200-guest room hotel with the historic trading floor an event space along with the Grand Bassey Hall, named after singer Shirley Bassey who grew up in the neighbourhood.

St David’s Hotel – While the Exchange is nestled in Cardiff Bay’s heritage quarter, this 142-guest-room five-star overlooks the area’s waterfront, which was transformed from 1999 when a barrage created a permanent freshwater lake in place of mudflats. The largest event spaces at the St David’s are named after two of South Wales’ most famous writers, Swansea’s Dylan Thomas, and Cardiff-born Roald Dahl.  

 

CONNECTIONS

Cardiff-Wales Airport – A new Qatar Airways service commencing in May 2018 will connect South Wales to more Asia destinations. One-stop connections via Doha already operate to Beijing, Bangkok and Tokyo. Cardiff-Wales was recently named best regional airport in the UK (under 3 million passengers).

Motorway – The M4 links Swansea, Cardiff and Newport with west London, notably Heathrow airport, and cities such as Bristol, Swindon and Reading.

Rail – Trains for South Wales and the west of England leave London from Paddington station with direct routes to Cardiff taking about 2 hours 15 mins.

 

EXCURSIONS

Vale Resort & Hensol Castle – It’s the clichéd dream wedding venue, an impressive backdrop for a period drama, and… a conference centre. Hensol is in the Vale of Glamorgan and features a golf resort, accommodation for 143 with teambuilding and corporate activity packages.

Brecon Beacons – Wales has wilderness, notably Brecon Beacons National Park where Call of the Wild, a provider of leadership and management programmes operates a 70-acre training centre.

Big Pit – Coal played a huge part in Britain’s industrial revolution, but all that remains today is a heritage brought to live in museums such as the Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenavon, about a 40 minute drive north of the Celtic Manor Resort.

The Romans – About 3km from the Celtic Manor is the National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon, where this part of Wales was once the most westerly point of the Roman Empire. Caerleon functioned for 200 years as one of the three permanent Roman forts in Britain. Today meeting and teambuilding facilities have been added.

 

EVENT CREDENTIALS

Ryder Cup – 2010 – Nato Summit – 2014 – both at Celtic Manor Resort

Soccer and rugby internationals at Principality Stadium, Cardiff

Hospitality and Catering Expo – July 2019, ICC Wales

Alzheimer’s Research UK – March 2020, ICC Wales

Volvo Ocean Race – June 2018 – arrives in Cardiff for the first time



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