• The King's Centre

Collaborative Showcase hosted by The King’s Centre

by Andrew Ffrench, Oxford Mail

BUSINESS leaders in Oxford are uniting to persuade major organisations to choose the city as a conference venue.

Oxford does not have a bespoke conference centre but there are numerous venues across the city which can accommodate hundreds of people, including Oxford University’s Said Business School and the King's Centre.

Conference Oxford has been working with destination management organisation Experience Oxfordshire and Oxford University colleges and venues to try to ensure that the city does not miss out on major bookings to rival locations.

On Friday, Conference Oxford staff invited representatives from venues and hotels to a showcase at the King’s Centre in Osney Mead, so they could discuss how best to work together.

Tomorrow Historic England, which is backed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will bring more than 700 delegates for a conference at the King’s Centre.

Marie O’Connor, head of Conference Oxford, said: “We work very closely with Oxford colleges - there are thousands of student bedrooms in the city but of course in term time we can’t use them.

“The demand is there for Oxford to have a new conference centre - we have had 3,500 enquiries from organisations this year alone - that’s 10 per cent up - the demand is certainly there.”

Ms O’Connor said once organisations required a venue which accommodated more than 500 people it became ‘a challenge to host them’.

That challenge is being met by enlisting the support of venues and hotels, including the new Courtyard by Marriott in Paradise Street, Oxford.

The hotel’s sales manager Christina Irons said: “We don’t have event space but we have offered accommodation to Experience Oxfordshire for Visit Britain and the Brazil market.

“We also work closely with Conference Oxford - it’s a collaborative approach and an important partnership to have.”

Frank Smith, head of commercial services at Experience Oxfordshire, said Oxford had a number of large venues it could offer for conferences, including the Sheldonian Theatre, the Examination Schools, the Said Business School and the King’s Centre.

He added: “Oxford is held in great regard but some organisations are disappointed because they can’t get bigger conferences into the city centre. But by working together we can attract the larger conferences.

“We have to work hard to compete with locations like Aberdeen which has its own convention centre and, as a result, punches above its weight.”

Conference Oxford delegates on Friday took a tour of venues in the city centre following a ride on an Oxford Bus Company City Sightseeing bus.

They visited Oxford Castle and Prison, Junkyard Golf Club and John Lewis.

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