This week we spend time with Anthony Cassidy, Senior International Bid Manager at the Manchester Convention Bureau, for his insights and reflections on the city's burgeoning business tourism industry.

Headshot of Anthony Cassidy

Q: You're the Senior International Bid Manager at the Manchester Convention Bureau. With your experience in destination marketing, what do you enjoy about your role?

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A: I've had an incredible 18-year journey with Marketing Manchester, witnessing the evolution of our city's visitor economy and developing alongside my home city. Starting as a conference sales assistant in 2006, I gained a deep understanding of event mechanics and developed an interest in the transformative impact of conferences.

I began to specialise in international associations, where I honed the skill of bridging the academic world with the business events industry. Eventually I came to lead the team that identifies and bids for national and international events. Through my involvement in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of events, I've seen how they inspire, connect people, and even transform industries.

I'm fortunate to work with a dedicated team of talented colleagues at Marketing Manchester who share my passion for showcasing Manchester's story globally. I enjoy the buzz of welcoming visitors to my home city, and I thrive on analysing client briefs, pinpointing Manchester's unique advantages, and crafting persuasive bids that win lucrative conferences for our destination. 

It’s been an immense privilege to travel extensively internationally, spreading Manchester’s powerful message worldwide. I've travelled to over twenty countries, building relationships with international event planners.

Ant Cassidy

Q: Your career spans an impressive timeframe. What major shifts have you witnessed in the conference industry over that time?

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A: Oh, the changes have been immense! During my time in the role, the bed stock in our city centre has quadrupled, reflecting the growth of Manchester’s visitor economy.  

When I started out, the focus of the business tourism industry was primarily on logistics – venues, catering, those fundamentals. Now, conference organisers are thinking like experience-designers. It's about curating a journey for delegates that extends beyond plenary sessions and networking receptions.  

Technology, of course, has been a game-changer. These days, hybrid events are expected, and it's exciting to see how AI and other innovations are reshaping delegate engagement. 

But perhaps the most significant shift is in the perceived value of conferences. They're increasingly recognised as vital platforms for cities to drive economic growth, attract talent, and build their global reputation. 

Ant Cassidy Badges

Q: Indeed, sustainability has become a non-negotiable factor for the events industry. How is Manchester tackling this as a conference destination?

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A: The Manchester Convention Bureau is committed to helping organisers to plan environmentally conscious events. We offer resources on sustainable venues, green transportation, and event planning tools to minimise the environmental footprint of events.  

But it's about more than just event execution. We're pushing for a legacy mindset – How can conferences align with Manchester's broader goals? Our alignment with Greater Manchester's ambitious 2038 net-zero goal reflects our dedication to leaving a positive legacy. We want to be a destination where conferences tread lightly and actively contribute to our city's sustainable future. 

Q: Let's dive into Manchester's unique appeal as a conference destination. What differentiates the city from its competitors?

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A: Manchester has an infectious, "can do" spirit – the whole city is hardwired for collaboration and works best in partnership. We were a cradle of the Industrial Revolution, built on innovation and a willingness to disrupt, and that ethos lives on. Our universities are involved in world-class research, our businesses are hungry to connect, and there's a cultural vibrancy that delegates pick up on. Yes, we’re globally accessible, have cutting-edge conference venues and a first-rate convention infrastructure, but the real power lies in that collaborative spirit and our city's distinct personality. 

Image of worker stood next to a large sign spelling IMEX

Q: Can you elaborate on the Manchester Conference Ambassador Programme, particularly how it impacts delegates and the conferences they attend?

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A: Impact-savvy destinations understand that conferences are not just events, but investments. When it comes to attracting valuable conferences, a well-run ambassador programme is the secret weapon of the convention bureau.  

The Manchester Conference Ambassador Programme bridges the gap between conferences and the region's intellectual capital. Imagine having Nobel laureates, industry titans, and cultural luminaries not just attending your conference, but actively attracting it and shaping it. Our Ambassador Programme connects conference organisers with these leading figures, ‘Mbassadors’, who lend their expertise through leadership, keynote addresses, panel discussions, and even exclusive access to labs, studios, or research facilities. Mbassadors inject a dose of "Manchester magic" into conferences, offering delegates unparalleled insights and a truly unforgettable experience. 

Group of people at an event watching a speaker on stage

Q: Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, what's your forecast for the Manchester events landscape and your priorities at the Convention Bureau?

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A: We're doubling down on attracting events aligned with our subject strengths and frontier sectors such as advanced manufacturing, life sciences and digital innovation. I also anticipate a growing appetite for super-focused conferences in niche areas where Manchester excels, in everything from photons to fungi, acoustics to accountancy, and psychotherapy to cyber.  

In addition to subject-specific events, Manchester's reputation as a hub for knowledge and innovation is further reinforced by The University of Manchester hosting the prestigious Times Higher Education World Academic Summit in October 2024. This flagship event will bring together leaders of universities all over the globe to explore the future of higher education and its impact on society. 

Manchester is experiencing a moment of incredible momentum. The city is attracting major international events that were once out of reach, such as the high-octane BLAST Esports Rainbow Six Major tournament, the prestigious WOMEX (Worldwide Music Expo) and the vibrant Herbalife Europe & Africa Extravaganza, which will see 15,000 participants descend on Manchester’s AO Arena.  

Manchester's energy is infectious, and we're taking centre stage globally. This spring, we unveil Co-op Live, the UK's largest indoor venue, enabling us to host even more ambitious events. The excitement continues as we welcome the iconic MTV EMAs this year. These showcases solidify Manchester's position as a world-class destination for major events. 

Accessibility is key and Manchester is expanding its international reach. Only this month, Juneyao Airlines launched its brand new service from Shanghai to Manchester Airport, opening a vital gateway to China and reinforcing our city's position as a globally connected destination.  This connectivity is further enhanced by Manchester Airport's ongoing multi-billion pound transformation project, ensuring a world-class experience for all who pass through our international gateway.  

We're working to make Manchester a gold-standard destination for conferences that are inclusive and welcoming to all. Together, we can create a conference landscape that fosters innovation, strengthens connections, and celebrates diversity. The future of our industry is bright, and Manchester is at the forefront.