A new vision for Harrogate’s showpiece conferencing venue is set to be finalised amid concerns its multi-million pound trade is being undermined by the economic crisis and an urgent need to update facilities.
A five-year business strategy for the Harrogate International Centre (HIC) will be considered next month following a review which was launched after the conferencing trade has been badly hit as event organisers slash back expenditure.
The HIC, which is owned and operated at arm’s length by Harrogate Borough Council, is expected to record a loss of £1.1m in the current financial year and while the figure is lower than an initial prediction of £1.6m, directors admitted the conference and exhibition complex is in need of major investment.
The head of operations, Simon Kent, confirmed feedback from customers and potential new clients had claimed the venue is looking “tired and dated” which is proving to be a barrier for sales.
Mr Kent stressed the new strategy will be more “customer focused” in the hope of attracting new business to ensure the HIC is able to compete against rival locations such as London, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester.
He said: “Our job is to see HIC not as it is, but what it can be. We need to find out what our customers want from us and then develop the product to meet those needs. Our emphasis needs to be on attracting new customers as well as retaining and growing existing customers.”
The HIC’s board commissioned both external and internal reviews in August last year and the recommendations are being incorporated into the new business strategy to be considered next month.
There has been a major streamlining in recent years of the HIC’s operations and staff numbers were slashed in the two years up until 2012 when a 100-strong workforce was halved. While 181 events were staged in 2008/09, there are expected to be 155 in the current financial year.