In the spotlight: Claire Heap, Conference Leeds

With the business meetings and events sector full of exceptional talent, it's important to recognise the valuable range of insight we have available within the mia network. We caught up with Claire Heap, Visitor Economy Manager at Conference Leeds about her role within the sector.

Claire is an integral part of the team at Conference Leeds, the official Conference Bureau for the city of Leeds.

Leeds was acknowledged as the Best Event Destination at last year’s C&IT Awards, having also been named the fifth most popular UK conference destination in the UK (BMEIS 2019). Boasting an exceptional conferencing proposition, Leeds offers an eclectic variety of venues combined with unrivalled shopping, food and drink, a rich culture and sustainability practices, all in one compact and accessible location.

Conference Leeds, offers a free and impartial service to assist delegates eager to experience exceptional. The team at Conference Leeds has a wealth of experience and provides support and advice to help organisers find the perfect venues, accommodation choices, events and activities.

Describe your day-to-day duties

As Visitor Economy Manager, I am responsible for the delivery of the business tourism strategy for the city of Leeds. My day-to-day duties can be really varied, and I love the fact that I get to spend a lot of my time leading on our stakeholder engagement to ensure we’re representing the venues across our city in the best way possible. This means working very closely with local partners such as Leeds’s Independent Venues Group, the Leeds Hotels and Venues Association (LHVA), Welcome to Yorkshire, and maintaining our productive working relationships with national organisations such as the mia, VisitEngland and VisitBritain.

From a more commercial standpoint, I also look after our proactive sales function; ensuring we are on the front foot when it comes to identifying those whose event requirements are the perfect match for what Leeds has to offer. A key part of this is ensuring our PR strategy maximises awareness of our city and the services we provide at Conference Leeds, to make sure we’re front of mind for organisers looking to plan their next conference or event.

What inspires you?

I’ve always had an interest in the visitor economy and tourism, but am also a huge advocate of Leeds, which is my home city. When I left University, my first job was as a Conference Assistant with Conference Leeds. While my career then took me on to other ventures, the opportunity to return and work for the city of Leeds has been a real career highlight for me. Being able to combine my professional experience in tourism and the visitor economy with representing my home city really couldn’t be any more inspiring.

 What has been your favourite event/project to work on?

One of my favourite projects I’ve recently been involved in was our Independent Venues Month campaign, which was launched to showcase just how integral the city’s independent venues are when it comes to attracting conferences and events to Leeds. As the first campaign of its kind, it really demonstrated collaboration at its best in the city, bringing together our independent venues and exploring how they create exceptional conference experiences.  The campaign has been a huge success and we are already making plans to bring it back next year.

 What is your favourite thing about your destination?

Aside from the fact that everyone always receives a warm Yorkshire welcome here in Leeds, our city is without doubt one of the most accessible in the UK. Leeds city centre is compact and perfectly walkable, which means we can really showcase our fantastic variety of venues and the full scope of sights and experiences on offer. This in turn allows us to really get creative when exploring how the city can host any event, which provides us with some really exciting opportunities while ensuring no two events are ever the same.

 Why should people visit your destination?

Conferencing in Leeds is a chance for organisers and delegates to experience the exceptional - a city which is at the epicentre of the modern north, and is also at the heart of road, rail and air networks that connect Leeds to the world.

Our portfolio is very diverse, but it is also extremely memorable, with venues ranging from world-class universities and historic civil venues to iconic sporting destinations and unique cultural landmarks. The city also brings together the energy of major brands and the diversity of a thriving independent scene, creating an exceptional experience that we genuinely believe can be found nowhere else.

Our industry credentials are also second to none. We’re the home of the latest innovations in healthcare technology and cutting-edge developments in financial and professional services. Our proud manufacturing sector is an engine for growth and thriving digital and information economy businesses are fuelling a mini tech boom. This allows us to offer organisers and delegates access to professionals, academics and leading industry voices who are ready to partner, collaborate and play a part in delivering that unrivalled experience.

But experiencing a conference in Leeds goes far beyond choosing the perfect venue. It’s also about taking a bite of our thriving independent food scene, breathing the fresh air of the Yorkshire Dales or unwinding and networking in a city centre which is compact, walkable and packed with plenty of things to do. We’ve got household-name retailers, beautiful Victorian arcades and plenty of cultural discoveries too. Leeds is a city where international sporting events, colourful carnivals and world-class creative experiences are never too far away.

As we begin to welcome back business, what are you most looking forward to?

This may sound obvious, but the only answer I can give to that question is events! After many months of postponements, cancellations and virtual replacements, we’re really looking forward to seeing events take place once again. Whether it is reconnecting with our city’s venues or collaborating closely with clients to bring their vision to life, we’re looking forward to delivering exceptional experiences in a safe and secure way. Our aim is always to ensure Leeds makes a lasting impression on national and international conference organisers and delegates so being able to do that again is a really exciting prospect.

Where can people go to find out more about your destination and services?

The Conference Leeds team goes out of its way to ensure hosting your event in Leeds is as easy and enjoyable as possible.

From our free and impartial venue finding service to the organisation of site visits and even support with delegate booking and event marketing, our support from conception to completion will ensure you and your delegates experience exceptional during your time in Leeds.

For more information, including a full list of the services we offer visit www.conferenceleeds.co.uk