Donington Park takes on NEC
The biggest business venue in Leicestershire is aiming to lure major events away from national rivals.
Donington Park Exhibition Centre, which can accommodate up to 6,000 people, has launched a joint marketing push with leading hotels.
The initiative, overseen by publicly-funded marketing agency Leicester Shire Promotions (LSP), aims to exploit the central location of Castle Donington and its closeness to East Midlands Airport, the M1 and East Midlands Parkway railway station.
Bosses said the huge centre, next to Donington Park race circuit, offers 48,000 square feet (4,500 square metres) of space and provided a credible alternative to venues such as the NEC, in Birmingham, and the Ricoh Arena, Coventry.
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Hotels signed up to the scheme include Radisson Blu at East Midlands Airport, Donington Manor, Hilton East Midlands Airport, Thistle East Midlands Airport and Priest House on the River.
Roger Lowe, business development manager at Donington Park, said: "The idea is to attract large events that need our accommodation and nearby hotels as well.
"It's aimed at large business associations or annual events which would normally go to the NEC or the Ricoh Arena.
"To bring people out of London, they need to know it's one-and-a-half hours on the train from St Pancras to East Midlands Parkway.
"It's about getting a message out there and letting people know our facilities are equal to, if not better than Birmingham, or other big centres."
LSP has secured four major national business events, including the annual Federation of Small Businesses conference, which will take place in Leicester in March.
Love Business East Midlands 2013 is expected to attract more than 1,300 visitors to Donington Park on February 14, building on the success of this year's inaugural event.
Heather Thornton, chairman of LSP's north west Leicestershire branch and sales director at Best Western Premier Yew Lodge Hotel, in Kegworth – also part of the Donington Park initiative – said: "Leicester Shire Promotions has had considerable success within the city and there should be no reason why we can't do this here, too.
"I think we need people to realise there's more to Leicestershire than just being a stop off on the way to the Lakes or the south coast."
Martin Peters, LSP chief executive, said: "This initiative shows these businesses have a real desire and commitment to promoting the area as a destination of choice."