ExCeL, the 10-year-old exhibition center near London’s burgeoning Canary Wharf financial district, was missing one key piece to make it complete: conference space. That changed in June 2010, when the International Convention Centre expansion officially opened.
ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Co.), which bought ExCeL in 2008, funded the $250 million expansion. ADNEC chairman His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan joined London’s charismatic mayor, Boris Johnson, at the launch, which brought together the local events community for a reception and lunch in the new space.
The facility includes London’s largest banquet space, which can hold up to 3,000; a 5,000-seat semi-permanent auditorium; and 17 meeting rooms that will accommodate up to 2,500 attendees. Together with ExCeL, the complex includes nearly 350,000 square feet of event space.
ADNEC also announced it will develop a 252-room Aloft hotel that will connect to the ICC. Five hotels are located within walking distance of the complex.
ICC London ExCel will host seven Olympic and six Paralympic events in 2012 and is one of a number of developments in London’s East End for the games, including the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium, which is on schedule to be complete by 2011. Considered a working-class stepchild next to London’s grander districts, the east side’s revival really was sparked when the financial community started migrating from London’s historic City district toward Canary Wharf about a decade ago. Nearly 100,000 employees commute to jobs in the city-within-a-city daily, and more development is in the works.
One welcome byproduct of the migration by all those investment bankers: In September 2009, British Airways launched twice-daily flights between New York’s JFK airport and the traveler-friendly London City Airport, which is close to Canary Wharf and a stone’s throw from ExCeL. BA’s 32-seat business-class-only aircraft feature fold-flat seats, flexible dining, and mobile connectivity during the flight for passengers who want to stay productive. Once on the ground, passengers zip through a brief customs checkpoint and can reach London destinations quickly by cab, light rail, and underground. The airline has an arrangement with a nearby Marriott for travelers who would like to freshen up on arrival. On the return to the U.S., check-in is quick, the aircraft stops briefly at Shannon Ireland for refueling and customs clearance, and the flight lands at a JFK domestic gate.