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Prioritising inclusivity and sustainability in business events

At the end of February, NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau’s Senior Manager for Business Events, Caroline Reed attended the ICCA UK & Ireland Chapter Annual Conference in Belfast. Meeting with other professionals in the business events industry and sharing best practice, Caroline shares the valuable learnings she came away with.

The stage was set in Belfast this February for the 2024 edition of the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) UK & Ireland Chapter Conference. It was an incredible opportunity to connect and re-connect with colleagues from across the region and explore some of our industry’s most important challenges and opportunities in an open and welcoming forum.

Caroline alongside representatives from two other organisations smiling to camera with their ICCA delegate passes around their necks.

One of the key focuses across the event programme was Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (EDI) and how the business events sector can make further strides to ensure people of all intersections are welcomed by destinations as well as at conferences themselves.

Already renowned for our warm welcome and friendly people in the North East, NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau is committed to reinforcing our reputation by ensuring this welcome is felt by every visitor to the region.

ICCA provided a safe space for open discussion as we explored misconceptions around menopause, LGBTQIA+ issues, mental health and accessibility. Hearing directly from those who had experienced discrimination felt particularly important. Not only did we look at how we can ensure these experiences are avoided in the future, but we also looked at how we can be actively inclusive and accessible. This included having policies, bringing in external speakers to talk about the subject matters, and undertaking training. In NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau we have already undertaken Proud Allies Training, which raises awareness and increases confidence around inclusive language and engaging with LGBTQIA+ communities, and we’ve supported other organisations to take part in the training as well to ensure we are all providing the same inclusive welcome to visitors and delegates.

Image of food platters and glass bottles of pop on a round table.

Belfast led by example at the event, with the Changing the Menu. For Good initiative which saw all food waste from the conference donated to the People’s Kitchen who aim to tackle food poverty and homelessness in the city. Delegates also had the opportunity to donate to the initiative by bringing gloves, tins of food, small toys or donating directly via a QR code. This was an incredible community initiative that will have a continued legacy in the city beyond this one conference and was something I was particularly inspired by.

The event touched on all the aspects of regenerative tourism, something which we are at the beginning of as a convention bureau. Over the past year we undertook our first GDS-Index as a city, to find out how we are performing environmentally and socially as tourism destination.

I came away from the event completely inspired and empowered to look at ways Newcastle and Gateshead can build on our reputation as a welcoming region and support event organisers to create a positive social impact, not only whilst they are here but for long after they have left our shores. There are some really interesting ideas around engaging with the local community to highlight the positive impact of conferences and how they can benefit from them as well.

A key priority for us in Newcastle and Gateshead is attracting conferences and events that are committed to providing a positive social impact in our region. This could be a community engagement initiative with a local school, partnering with a local charity or utilising the local supply chain and we want to support organisers to make this happen, connecting them with the right organisations. We can create a legacy and impact through collaboration and strong partnerships.

If you are interested in working with us, please get in touch

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