Kerrin MacPhie, (Director of sales at ACC Liverpool)

TTW is glad to have an exclusive parley with Kerrin MacPhie, director of sales at ACC Liverpool, home to BT Convention Centre and Echo Arena. She talks about Liverpool’s emerging status as a MICE destination, about ACC Liverpool – its future plans, developments and much more.

TTW: What are the main goals and objectives of ACC Liverpool? And what are the strategies implemented to achieve them?

Kerrin MacPhie: Our overarching aim as a business is embodied by our company vision, mission and brand values which have driven our ambition and the culture of our organisation since 2008; to be a successful world class arena and convention centre that contributes to the long term growth and prosperity of the city of Liverpool and its people.

Our specific business objectives however are set out in the company five year strategic business plan which focuses on the three pillars of customer experience; expansion and development; commercial innovation.

Customer experience is what sets us apart from our competitors. In a challenging market place, we are always looking for opportunities to improve our offer, whether that be through infrastructure, approach or service. For example our technology strategy includes maintaining our position as market leader by developing social media and offering client services such as bespoke event websites and smart phone apps.

We are continually developing our facilities and have announced exciting expansion plans for a £40m exhibition centre, due for completion in 2014, which will offer 8,100m2 of flexible exhibition and event space.

Our commercial innovation initiatives include offering value added services for clients and developing our in-house skills amongst our existing team of people.

TTW: Were there any challenges as such faced by you during the time of its opening, in this competitive field of travel industry?

Kerrin MacPhie: ACC Liverpool opened in 2008 as the city celebrated the coveted title of European Capital of Culture.

The opening of a new building, putting systems and processes in place, recruitment, the appointment of service partners, generating sales, pre marketing campaigns and penetrating a saturated market were significant challenges.

We were informed six months prior to opening that BT Convention Centre’s open date would be delayed by six weeks, a period during which we were fully booked with a busy conference calendar.

The team devised a solution of building meeting space within the arena floor, by black boxing the space to obscure the seating, thereby creating meeting rooms of a high standard.

This provided a solution that clients were happy with as events were given the space they needed to achieve their objectives. Clients respected the solution that we provided, at no extra cost to them, rather than accept cancellation as the only option. This enhanced our reputation in the marketplace as clients were able to see first-hand how we could be flexible and adaptive.

Indeed, many of these clients have returned to hold their events over the past four years and will continue to in the future.

TTW: Are there any green or sustainability initiatives which have been implemented in the Centre’s design?

Kerrin MacPhie: ACC Liverpool is one of the greenest venues of its kind in Europe, specifically designed with the most energy efficient, environmentally-friendly green criteria in mind. The building been designed to produce half the CO2 emissions it would without any environmentally-friendly measures, whilst using 20% less electricity.

We are the only BREEAM and ISO 14001 accredited venue in the UK and have an insulation and air control system that requires significantly less energy than a traditional build. Rainwater is collected on the roof which is used to flush toilets, accounting for about 40% of the water used for flushing toilets in the venue; five 20-metre low noise wind turbines on the river side of the venue contribute to our electricity supply.

The roof of our Galleria – the spine linking Echo Arena and BT Convention Centre – is made of the same construction as the Eden Project with twin layers on plastic blown up with air, designed to keep warm in winter and stay cool in summer.

TTW: What have been the keys to the Convention Centre’s success?

Kerrin MacPhie: The key to success was engagement and relationship building with the association sector before we opened and bringing them on the journey of ACC Liverpool’s development. It was an ideal time to do this as we were within the booking window for this sector – a sector that has continued to stay loyal to us to this day.

We are continuously building on our reputation in the corporate sector which has meant that we have a fantastic mix of business.

These elements, combined with our opening in the city’s year as European Capital of Culture, first-class facilities and a strong team, are a recipe for success.

TTW: Why do you think that business travelers should choose Liverpool as their destination for holding events?

Kerrin MacPhie: A compact city, Liverpool boasts a range of conference facilities, from the large, purpose-built ACC Liverpool to the new Museum of Liverpool. These are complemented by a host of academic and historic venues, boutique hotels, exceptional restaurants, vibrant nightlife and an extremely well-connected airport and train station, making it an ideal destination in which to hold events.

The city is home to excellent conference facilities in the form of ACC Liverpool, four and five star establishments and the soon to be completed Layla Hotel. The city also has boutique establishments such as Hope Street Hotel and Heywood House (which can both host mid to large sized conferences) and first class restaurants like Jamie’s Italian and Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill, part of Hotel Indigo. This means that each aspect of a delegate’s stay is catered to, to the highest degree. Furthermore, academic venues including The University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, offer some of the best fully functional conference and event venues for delegate meetings. For example, campuses housing both large theatres and small intimate rooms can provide space for any number of association meetings, big or small.

With all this on offer in Liverpool, the city is an attractive conference destination which will provide the best facilities for a successful and memorable conference and event.

TTW: What are the USPs of ACC Liverpool?

Kerrin MacPhie: A major USP for the venue is the flexibility of the space. The interlinked arena and convention centre offers a unique venue for large scale events.

ACC Liverpool is proud of its team; every client has highlighted the helpfulness of our staff both prior to and during the event. Each member of the team works towards one goal, understanding that providing delegates with a service to ensure the event runs smoothly is vital in such a large venue.

Adding to the venue’s facilities, ACC Liverpool is located inthe city centre, boasts two on-site hotels, has excellent transport links and a multi storey car park on site.

TTW: We all know that ACC Liverpool is the most developed and modern Convention Centre in the city – What makes it so?

Kerrin MacPhie: ACC Liverpool is the only convention centre in the city and celebrated its fourth birthday in January 2012. It is a landmark of the regenerationin Liverpool over the past decade. It sits at the heart of the city centre on Liverpool Waterfront, overlooking the River Mersey alongside the Grade I listed Albert Dock and adjacent to the World Heritage site at Pier Head.

Facilities include a 1,350 seat auditorium, 18 breakout rooms and 7125m2 of exhibition space – and the 11,000 capacity Echo Arena.

TTW: Is the centre sketching any other plans to make it more advanced?

Kerrin MacPhie: We are currently underway with exciting plans to build a brand new, state of the art, £40m exhibition centre, due for completion in 2014.

The new 8,100m2 exhibition space will be a major economic boost for the city. It will contribute an estimated £40 million a year in economic benefit to the city, generating income for local businesses including hotels, shops, bars, restaurants as well as driving additional visitors to the city, which is vital for our cultural and leisure economy and our transport operators.

With the expansion comes a renewed focus on our existing facilities to ensure that, from a technology and customer experience perspective, they remain at the forefront of advancements in the live events industry. Come 2014, our existing facilities will be as fresh and appealing as our new facilities.

TTW: What role does ACC Liverpool play in promoting tourism for the city?

Kerrin MacPhie: We regularly attend national and international trade exhibitions promoting our world-class venue and the appeal of Liverpool as a conference destination for event organisers. We also host our annual showcase in London every year and organise familiarisation visits and activity specifically to our association and corporate buyers.

We also work closely with our colleagues at Liverpool Convention Bureau to promote Liverpool’s business tourism offer.

TTW: How is the centre lined up for 2012?

Kerrin MacPhie: BBC Worldwide held its annualShowcase event in February. This is the first time BBC has held its Showcase in Liverpool in its 36 year history; it is the only event of its kind in the world and brought more than 600 international media buyers into the city for four days.

The Global Entrepreneurship Congress will take place over the week from March 12th. The headline speaker at the Main Event, on Tuesday March 13th, is Sir Richard Branson. Other speakers include Sir Terry Leahy, Michael Heseltine and Martha Lane Fox.

It is expected to attract politicians, economists and entrepreneurs from around the world to look at programs and policies aimed at advancing entrepreneurship. Conference business is healthy at ACC Liverpool with a good mix of large association and corporate events throughout 2012. However, the nature of our business means that we are always looking ahead and at this moment in time we are in discussions to hold events up to 2020.

The city will hold the UK’s biggest street theatre event in 2012 to commemorate 100 years since the sinking of the Titanic. This will see a 30 foot Giant Little Girl roaming North Liverpool and the city centre and her 50 foot tall uncle who will arrive in the city as part of Sea Odyssey which runs from 20 – 22 April.

French creators Royal de Luxe (RDL) have promised a moving story of love, loss, family and communication which transcends time. It is set to be the biggest and most ambitious event the city has ever held.

ACC Liverpool will be inviting clients to enjoy the event.

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