Destination Harrogate – May Update
by John McGivern, Destination Events Manager
Only a year ago, Destination Harrogate was celebrating a milestone birthday for the Harrogate Convention Centre and reflecting on 40 years since the opening of its 2000-seat main auditorium. It was at this venue in 1982 that Harrogate hosted the Eurovision Song Contest and in May 2022, as we awaited the forthcoming Song Contest in Italy, who knew that the United Kingdom would go on to take second place? A year later, Eurovision fever once again feels very close to home, with the North of England gearing up to host the contest on behalf of Ukraine and with us once again recalling Harrogate’s connections to the world famous event. Opinions on Eurovision may be mixed – the late Terry Wogan once commenting “there is not enough silliness in the world – Eurovision helps to keep it balanced” – but Harrogate’s portfolio of world class events is undoubtedly one to be taken seriously, for leisure, sports and business events alike.
Harrogate has just hosted IATEFL at the Convention Centre – an international conference and exhibition that brings together English language teaching professionals from around ninety different countries, with an average annual attendance of around 2500 delegates. These large international events offer enormous potential to Harrogate’s visitor economy and that of the wider area – particularly in the off-peak season, when leisure visitor numbers traditionally have been lower. The Town Welcome activity delivered by Events Harrogate supports delegates to not only feel connected with the area while they’re here, encouraged to explore the destination freely, but also to be informed about the quality and the extent of leisure opportunities available here – inviting a return visit. Repeat visits that are not purely business, but which include family and loved ones, tagging on leisure stays to a business trip – or buying into the ‘work-cation’ trend that has become more popular since the pandemic – can offer a huge boost to our local economy. The rise of ‘bleisure’ and its affinity to Harrogate is supported by Business Events Research from VisitBritain VisitEngland, which has shown Harrogate to be recommended by 96% of delegates as an event destination, while 88% of delegates said that they were likely, or very likely, to return here for leisure in the future.
This month, we continue to raise Harrogate’s profile as a first class events destination by exhibiting at CHS Leeds. The show provides an ideal opportunity to network with other event professionals, from agents to venue finders to event suppliers and industry peers from across the UK. At the end of June we’ll be attending The Meetings Show in London – the UK’s leading exhibition for the events, meetings, and incentives community – to connect with global suppliers, showcasing the Harrogate area as a place to host events of distinction and working to attract further top quality events here.
We look forward to delivering another outstanding summer events programme, which our residents as well as visitors from further afield can enjoy. We’re thrilled that Harrogate Carnival will be returning, on Sunday 30th July – a fantastic, family-friendly multi-national event that is becoming a firm favourite on our events calendar. And we’re excited to support the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival that Harrogate International Festivals delivers in July, and which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Events such as these highlight the exceptional attributes of the Harrogate area – drawing on its venue strengths, from wonderful outdoor spaces to history, heritage and literary connections – and set our destination apart as a truly unique place within North Yorkshire.