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Gateshead Quays: An interview with Kerrin MacPhie, VisitBritain

Anticipation is fast-building for the brand-new £260m state-of-the-art waterfront destination that will transform the already vibrant Gateshead Quays when it opens in 2024. Kerrin MacPhie, head of business events at VisitBritain, talks about the development that’s set to grab the attention of events organisers across the globe.

Perched above the River Tyne’s flowing waters, the The Glasshouse International Centre for Music and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art stand as globally recognised landmarks for North East England. Illuminating the iconic NewcastleGateshead Quayside, the cutting-edge structures are emblematic of the region’s evolution from heavy industrial pioneer to vibrant, cosmopolitan destination. They also stand as monoliths to NewcastleGateshead’s reputation as a world-renowned conference, exhibition, music and events hub – a status that will grow exponentially with the introduction of the UK’s newest convention space to the landscape. Hailed as one of the country’s most exciting developments, the striking £260m Gateshead Quays facility will include a 12,500 capacity, state-of-the-art arena venue and an international conference and exhibition centre with 6,300sqm of exhibition space and 2,800sqm of flexible meeting space.

Sitting between The Glasshouse International Centre for Music and BALTIC, the state-of-the-art waterfront destination – set to open in 2024 – will further catalyse NewcastleGateshead’s already compelling position as an international host for high-level events.

Kerrin MacPhie, head of business events at national tourism agency VisitBritain, believes the development will strengthen NewcastleGateshead’s existing worldwide appeal and see the region play an integral role in the growth of the UK’s economy.

“The Gateshead Quays development will create a huge opportunity for NewcastleGateshead, increasing its global reach to attract large-scale events from North America and China,” she said.

“Business events play a crucial role in the UK, not only in terms of their economic impact but also through raising the profile of its sector strengths and bringing large numbers of international attendees into the country.

“The current value of the industry in the UK is £37.1bn, with 50 per cent of that specifically for conferences, exhibitions and incentives. As a leading
destination for business events, it is crucial the UK is able to offer an array of well-equipped and quality venues that are suitable for all types of events and provide a world-class delegate experience. Welcoming a new, large-scale conference centre not only recognises this but also leaves organisers and delegates in no doubt about the quality of our business events offer, showcasing the commitment we have towards investing in the sector.”

The building’s long-term success will be augmented by NewcastleGateshead’s award-winning convention bureau and its conference ambassador programme, which both work with individuals, venues and partners to secure major national and international conferences and events.

“Having the facilities in place to host large-scale conferences not only encourages key international organisers to choose the UK, but also helps support conference ambassador programmes in our cities and regions,” said Kerrin.

“In turn, this helps our local experts draw in influencing events while promoting and supporting key sectors that thrive within the UK.

“The new centre will provide planners with an exciting option in an already well-established destination within the business events industry and will have a positive impact on bringing more international associations and incentive groups to the area. A large-scale venue is required before the destination is considered for large events and the creation of Gateshead Quays, alongside the region’s successful conference ambassador programme, will attract significant events through the bidding process, ensuring confirmed business years into the future.”

As well as bolstering NewcastleGateshead’s – and the UK’s – standing as a hub for conferencing and events space, Kerrin said the new development will also play an integral role in building on the government’s work to strengthen the country’s offer.

“Business events are important to the UK and the government is committed to attracting and welcoming more international events to the country – this is reinforced through the UK Tourism Sector Deal, which is supported by the Business Events Action Plan,” added Kerrin. “In addition, VisitBritain has supported the sector through the Business Events Growth Programme, which works with the industry to help secure more international events and promote the UK as the premier destination.

“We are passionate about working with our partners to provide a world-class visitor experience for international event planners and their delegates, and it is through developments like Gateshead Quays that we are able to demonstrate our commitment to growing our already impressive UK offering.”

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