A leading West Midlands events producer is urging a fresh approach to make sure the region is at the heart of the European conferencing market.
Nick Terry, director of Top Banana in Stourbridge, says the loss of the Motor Show and the CBI conference should be a sharp wake-up call.
The Motor Show has gone South for at least ten years and the CBI conference is following.
Mr Terry says: "Some people say 'Don't worry. We have plenty of other events.' Others say 'These are the flagships and they have gone so it is time to panic.' But somewhere in the middle is probably the case."
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said the NEC failed to offer a competitive bid, which, according to the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, is going to cost the region an estimated £500 million.
The CBI conference is equally important. Its presence in the ICC meant that the
world's business media focused on Birmingham for a few days, which was clearly excellent publicity.
"Also, and perhaps more importantly, showcasing our city and its facilities to business leaders had a positive impact on inward investment," says Mr Terry.
"After all, once you have been to Birmingham and the Midlands you are more likely to re-locate or spend money here than if you abide by the external perception."
The NEC has attracted other events this year, but they are hardly equivalents. So is
this the beginning of the end?
Mr Terry stresses that when the NEC Group was created in the Midlands, many worried about the impact it would have on other venues in the region. Would it mean their demise?
With hindsight, he believes, the ICC, NIA and the NEC have simply brought more event and conferencing trade to the Midlands so everyone has benefited.
"So, yes, in my opinion the loss of the Motor Show is a body blow but no, it is not the end. We need to learn the lessons and then move forward," he says.
"People need to believe that Birmingham is the place to have your event. Delegates need to be excited about the prospect of a conference or event in Birmingham and this means we need to be out and about promoting the city and wider region."
He believes that Neil Rami has re-invigorated Marketing Birmingham.
"But we are making a mistake if we think it is solely up to his organisation," he warns. "We all have a responsibility to promote the region in all our business dealings.
"We also need to support events for the general public. The greater the footfall, the more likely we are to get repeat business."
From his events manager's perspective, our venues must be flexible, accommodating and cost-effective.
He says: "At Top Banana, we have produced events all over the world. Our job is to achieve our clients' objectives with fresh thinking and a practical approach.
"We are often asked to recommend venues and we will always go with the ones that make our life simpler, whether they are in Birmingham or Amarillo. We need to be able to do creative and different things with the venue. We need access at different times. We need flexible venues.
"Often we create a unique environment, a cocoon almost, to make the audience forget where they are. We need to use our own teams and we need to be able to play with the surrounds if we want to bring a concept to life. That is what Motor Show stand designers will be doing down in London - using local companies and labour to help them."