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#SBS23 Guest Spotlight: Manchester Central

Images: Manchester Central

Images: Manchester Central

Ahead of TheStadiumBusiness Summit 2023Shaun HindsChief Executive Officer at Manchester Central, shares his thoughts on the current state of the venue and events marketplace, and discusses what’s on the agenda for the convention and events complex whose vaulted arches and station clock have been an iconic city feature for more than 140 years.

Hinds has served as CEO of Manchester Central since June 2017, taking up the role after over four years as Managing Director for EMEA and APAC at BridgeStreet Global Hospitality. Alongside his current position, Hinds serves as Director and Chair of the Events Industry Alliance and Association of Event Venues. He is also a Non Executive Director of YourWelcome.

TheStadiumBusiness: What are the key current challenges and opportunities in the venue and events marketplace?

Shaun Hinds: “The events and venues marketplace is brimming with exciting, collaborative and creative opportunities. In recent months, there has been a resurgence of large audience numbers attending events and a noticeable increase in interest from event organisers looking to utilise great spaces for unique experiences.

“At Manchester Central, we’ve certainly seen an uptick in the enquiries for sports events after hosting (last year’s) 2021 Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup Final; spectators in their droves are enjoying being able to enjoy live sport in a buzzing crowd and that’s a fantastic opportunity for our sector to harness.

“It’s our collective responsibility across the venues and events marketplace to highlight the tangible difference we make – after all the events industry contributes £70bn (€80.5bn/$87.5bn) to the UK economy each year and employs millions of people. Sharing the part we play is a huge opportunity to elevate and raise ambitions for what we can achieve together.

“There are certainly challenges to overcome and one that is particularly prevalent at the moment is rising costs, due to inflation and energy price rises. This is highlighting the importance of budgeting all aspects of event delivery and the need for all parties to maintain a strong, trusted relationship throughout any contracts so that any issues or questions can be resolved along the way.

“It’s also important that, as leaders, we use our combined voice to lobby the government on adaptations which would support our sectors to thrive rather than survive.”

TSB: What are the most interesting trends you are witnessing in the venue and events sector?

SH: “We’re definitely seeing that audiences want ‘something different’ for each event they attend, and they are more discerning about which events they will actually go to, whether that’s for business or leisure. This is driving up quality.

“Organisers who have succeeded in running successful events have done so by hosting experience-led sessions underpinned by creativity and innovation; raising the bar significantly on the ‘wow’ factor to draw in and entertain the crowds. Event organisers are, understandably, also much more attuned to ROI than ever before and they are seeing results when they go beyond expectations. Formulaic is out and fantastic is in.

“Interestingly, we’ve also seen an increase in spend per delegate in recent months. In the latest figures, that increase has exceeded pre-Covid figures by 27%. This shows that while audience members are more selective, they are willing to spend and invest when they choose to attend events that most align to their needs and wants.

“Right across the industry I’m hearing that event organisers last year were finalising bookings later than in previous years, which makes sense after the impact of the pandemic. But things are getting more on track again now as normality returns and diaries are booking up much more in advance.

“We’re well underway with finalising our 2024 diary and are fielding lots of interesting enquiries for two or three years ahead, which was not happening during and immediately after the pandemic. This extra preparation and planning time means that there is more scope to add to the quality of the event too, which loops back to my first point about responding to shifting audience expectations.”

TSB: What’s on the roadmap for Manchester Central over the next six to 12 months?

SH: “As a major city venue capable of hosting a variety of events for up to 10,000 people across our 23,000m²  footprint, we will concentrate on how we continually innovate. Next generation events require a greater emphasis on sustainable practices than ever before and we’re committed to investing in this area to ensure we’re at the top of our game.

“Our forecasts for the year ahead also remain strong, with more than 58 events due to take place between now and the end of the year, including the HYROX World Championships, the British Weight Lifting Open 2023 and the Interflora World Cup.”

TSB: What are you looking forward to most about the Summit?

SH: “I’m really looking forward to catching up with colleagues and peers from across the stadium, arena and venue industries. It’ll be a brilliant opportunity to deepen knowledge and connections.

“I’m especially excited to hear about the innovations happening to further boost the quality of major events held in our respective locations and I intend to support the breadth of work being done in this space right across the UK.

“It’s a really interesting time for stadia and arenas now as they are focusing on overall visitor experience much more than ever before. They are adding lounges, new and exciting F&B options, and introducing smart tech to enhance the experience – all of which is increasing dwell time and evolving traditionally functional establishments into destinations in their own right.”