NEC begins £2m summer upgrade programme

Customer research with visitors and exhibitors has led The NEC, Birmingham, to undergo a number of major improvement works including new car-parking measures, pre-booked parking options and special exhibitor car parking spaces in close proximity to the halls.

The research said that visitors and organisers wanted new signage that would enable them to be able to navigate the site with ease, as well as arrive and depart quickly and simply ­– this is now being implemented on-site during the improvement works, which are part of a £40 million investment over a seven-year programme.

The major summer upgrading works that are taking place, costing more than £2 million, are aimed at further enhancing the customer experience and also include replacing hall Two’s heating and ventilation units as part of the venue’s commitment to sustainability, significant security upgrades, recovering of the LG Arena’s roof and work on the flooring of many halls.

The new parking products are designed to provide a hassle-free customer experience to those visiting the venue, and include guaranteed NEC Express parking close to the event and designated Exhibitor Advantage parking for exhibitors. There will also be an increase in the cost of standard parking from £8 to £10 and disabled parking areas, which will be undergoing a significant refurbishment to incorporate specialist assistance help points, will now be charged at the standard price.

For visitors attending performances at The LG Arena, parking charges will remain at £8 for all, including disabled customers.

Kathryn James, managing director, the NEC, said: “We conducted visitor, organiser, contractor, promoter and exhibitor surveys last year, which gave us the opportunity to really hear what our customers wanted from us as a venue. In response, we have focused our efforts on making significant improvements to our site which will enhance our customers’ experience even further.

“We acknowledge that it is difficult for visitors to accept price rises, especially during these difficult economic times, but these changes are needed in order to make these investments to ensure our venue offers our customers a great experience that will set the NEC apart from the rest. It’s also about offering customers more choice, with a variety of parking offers now available – visitors can opt for the new pre-booked option or choose from the thousands of standard parking spaces provided on site thanks to our unrivalled flexibility as a venue.

“We’ve revamped our parking offer to include two dedicated visitor and exhibitor parking products, which will guarantee a parking space no matter what time they arrive. Our standard parking will increase by £2, which is the first rise we’ve implemented in five years and will go towards improving the venue for our customers. The same can be said in terms of us introducing a charge for disabled parking, which the majority of venues already do. We’ve worked closely with industry experts to ensure we offer a quality parking facility with a high standard of customer service for our disabled visitors.”

NEC Express allows customers to pre-plan their visit with a guaranteed parking space, close to the show they are visiting, at a cost of £20 per day. This will be in a designated parking area away from the main car parks which means it will be easier to exit the venue at the end of the day, reducing queuing time when exiting busy shows.

From September, 12 new on-site coaches are also being introduced to improve journeys from the car parks and around the site.

From September 1, 2012, disabled parking at the NEC will move from being free of charge to costing £10, bringing it in line with the majority of the market who already charge for disabled parking.

Exhibitors are also set to benefit from a new parking product, Exhibitor Advantage which will provide a guaranteed parking space in designated zones behind each of the halls – in direct response to exhibitors’ requests for their own parking areas with easy access.

Exhibitor Advantage is an exclusive product for exhibitors that can be purchased in advance of the show they are exhibiting at for the duration of the open period at the show, at a cost of £50 per day.

In addition, the new NEC Express offering can provide organisers and exhibitors with the option of purchasing spaces for key customers, giving them a VIP experience.

The NEC’s improvement works will be live for the open of Autumn Fair.