UK spotlight: Liverpool

1 Feb 2024 by BusinessTraveller
LFC stadium - credit Liverpool Football Club

Following its hosting of Eurovision, the world’s first UN Local2030 Hub has new hotels aplenty, a burgeoning dining scene and a busy events calendar in 2024.

Just before Christmas, Anfield stadium welcomed 57,000 fans – its largest crowd in 50 years – as the expanded upper tier of the Anfield Road stand opened for a showdown between Liverpool and Manchester United, one of the Premier League’s most bitter rivalries. While it was an uninspiring game that ended in a 0-0 draw (unlike the 7-0 thrashing United received here last March), the match proved that football remains a huge draw for the city, and when the expansion is finished, it will be able to accommodate up to 61,000 Reds supporters. On the blue side of Merseyside, Everton is set to relocate to a new 52,000-seat stadium in 2025, and the Premier League club’s new space has been selected as one of the locations for UEFA Euro 2028.

Anfield’s record-breaking crowd is a precursor for what’s gearing up to be an exciting year for the stadium, with Taylor Swift playing three of her Eras dates here in June (the first ever tour to surpass US$1 billion in revenue). Pink will also play two dates at Anfield in June, which will be followed by another headliner who is yet to be announced.

The Eurovision effect

Liverpool was bolstered by its hosting of Eurovision in May 2023 on behalf of Ukraine – more than 470,000 descended on the city to attend Eurovision events – and a flurry of new hotels opened their doors ahead of the contest. These included The Municipal Hotel and Spa Liverpool – MGallery (see our Tried and Tested review), Radisson RED, Ropewalks and the School Lane hotel. MGallery is the first five-star hotel in the city, which has helped Liverpool appeal to a more discerning clientele. “Conference organisers like to have a five-star hotel option not necessarily for all the delegates but for the speakers and VIPs. Sometimes they even specify that they want five-star accommodation, so it can only be to our benefit to have this as an option,” says Jenny Jensen, Marketing Liverpool’s head of business tourism.

More hotel options are poised to arrive this year. A Holiday Inn Express is set to open soon on Duke Street, then there’s IHG’s Halyard Liverpool, Vignette Collection – the first Vignette in the UK – with a Maldron hotel to follow in the second quarter of 2024.

With its rich musical heritage, Liverpool is one of the UK’s most hip destinations. Indeed, The Baltic Triangle was named the UK’s coolest neighbourhood by Time Out last year. The Baltic, as it’s affectionately known by locals, is a creative hub that will receive a further boost when BOXPARK Liverpool, a branded location hosting food and drink stalls alongside sporting and cultural happenings, opens here in spring 2024, says Sophie Shields, communications executive at Marketing Liverpool. Located in Canning Hall, part of the Cairns Brewery Estate, the £3.5 million development is the first BOXPARK location outside of London.

The Beatles Statue close up - credit Marketing Liverpool

A boost for sustainability

David Connor, founder of 2030 hub, advises businesses, the public sector, governments and charities on how to embrace sustainability, ESG and CSR. Its impact is already being felt, as Liverpool is the world’s first UN Local2030 Hub and picked up a global award for Most Improved Sustainable Destination last October, after making more progress than any of the other 100 cities now annually participating in the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-I). This impressive accolade is just the beginning though. “I don’t think the city understands the true power of having a sustainable narrative for Liverpool,” says Connor. “Everyone loves the story of Liverpool and then if you bolt on sustainability, you’ve got such a powerful positioning piece.”

Connor explains that his organisation acts as the intermediary between the UN and local players, and hopes Liverpool can be a case study for how non-capital cities approach sustainability. “We’ve been trying to translate our aims into Scouse: what does sustainability mean to a kebab shop in Toxteth, for example? Very early on, we mapped the sustainability goals for the city and while doing that research we found we can and should be doing a lot more.”

There’s plenty of good news on the sustainability front, though. “ACC Liverpool has just announced their campus is carbon neutral and it’s working towards net zero,” says Jensen.

Many hotels are keen to get accredited for green tourism, too. “Hilton in Liverpool has got some spectacular green credentials (Hilton is the first major hotel company to set science-based carbon targets aligned with climate science and the Paris Climate Agreement). The boutique hotels have their own aspirations too,” adds Connor.

With the GDS-I ranking, cities are getting more competitive, he explains. “The last 12 months, we’ve been focused on putting a taskforce together to find out what businesses need, and ask what they think the city should be doing. The success of last year was creating this energised taskforce – hotels, attractions, event organisers, plus people from the public sector – and sharing best practices. They can then become ambassadors within their community.”

8 by andrew sheridan

An emergent dining scene

Ten miles north of Liverpool in the village of Aughton, there are three Michelin-starred restaurants: Mark Birchall’s Moor Hall has two, his other restaurant, Barn at Moor Hall has one, and Tim Allen’s sō-lō has one. So far the city itself has missed out on a star, but 8 by Andrew Sheridan was awarded three rosettes in the AA Guide 2024 (the only restaurant to achieve this in Liverpool) and is helping transform the dining scene in the city. It was also voted best restaurant in the UK at the British Restaurant Awards 2023 – and some tip Sheridan as the chef to help the city gain its first Michelin star.

Liverpool-born Sheridan, who is also chef patron at OXA on the Wirral, relocated 8 from Birmingham last year after noticing that there was a dearth of fine dining spots in the city. Intimacy is what sets it apart. With just one sitting a day for 16 people, 8’s chefs prepare dishes such as Shetland cod with Champagne and mussel cream sauce less than a foot away from diners, and Sheridan is meticulous about all aspects of the dining experience – he has someone check the toilets three times during service, for instance. Nevertheless, the chef remains level-headed about the hype his restaurant has created. “I had no expectations, but the feedback has been unbelievable, and we’re fully booked now for the next two months.”

Back in the city centre, restaurants like Barnacle showcase the region’s food and drink provenance, with leading Liverpool chefs Paul Askew, Kieran Gill and Harry Marquart at the helm, and Menai oysters and salt-aged Cumbrian pork on the menu. New restaurants that have created a stir include Hawksmoor (Sheridan is a fan of their Sunday lunch) and Argentinian steakhouse Gaucho. An established favourite meanwhile, is The Art School Restaurant, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2023.

After a stroll to the Baltic Triangle (I’m tempted to stop for a pint at Love Lane Brewery but it’s heaving with Christmas parties), I find myself on Duke Street, a cool thoroughfare of cafes, bars and an award-winning food and drink market; there’s Ginger’s for Asian bowl food and Big Lola’s Taqueria for Mexican dishes inspired by San Fran’s Mission district. I pull up a chair at boutique hotel and bar/kitchen Lock and Key, where plush blue banquettes, black flock wallpaper and purple walls deliver a seductive speakeasy vibe in the bar area.

As she mixes me up a Limoncello Collins under the dim, moody lighting, bartender Grace Mangan tells me the hotel hosted the Portuguese and Romanian contestants of Eurovision.

Following the success of Duke Street’s buzzy food hall, plans have been drawn up to build another with space for 180 and three multi-roomed serviced apartments situated above, designed by architects Studio 256.

Despite all the development and its packed events calendar for 2024, many still have outdated preconceptions about the city, asserts Connor, who maintains that if you haven’t been to Liverpool recently, then you’ll be “gobsmacked,” by its transformation. Beyond the city limits, guests can also find worthy attractions, he adds. “Within 15 minutes, you can be on the Wirral in a national park, and Antony Gormley’s statues at Crosby Beach are just half an hour’s drive away.”

Liverpool Pier Head. Credit atanas paskalev_unsplash

Liverpool event spaces

For big meets: ACC Liverpool

Located on the waterfront, ACC Liverpool is three event venues in one: the M&S Bank Arena, the convention centre and the exhibition centre, which will host the biggest Liverpool Comic-Con event yet in May. In terms of spaces, the auditorium boasts 1,350 theatre-style seats while Hall 2 is a multi-functional, fully divisible carpeted space measuring in at 3,725 sqm which is ideal for gala dinners and exhibitions. The galleria lends itself well to drinks receptions, and there are 21 different meeting spaces, too. accliverpool.com

For healthy conferences: Spaces at The Spine

Situated within the Spine building at Paddington Village, Spaces at The Spine offers a variety of meeting, exhibition, conference and training spaces. It has been built according to WELL Building Standard concepts, making it one of the healthiest buildings in the North West: filtered drinking water is available throughout, as is LED lighting. Options include The Axis, which can host up to 160 reception-style or host dinners for up to 136 people, while Space One and Two can be combined to accommodate up to 350 theatre-style. spacesatthespine.co.uk

For a cool rendezvous: The Invisible Wind Factory

Situated near the site of the new Everton stadium in Bramley Moore Dock, this former wind turbine factory is now a multidisciplinary arts, music and live events venue hosting everything from rock concerts to roller skating sessions. Facilities include a stage, dance floor and two bars, and it can be hired out for 100 to 1,000 guests. invisiblewindfactory.com

Words: Helen Dalley

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Business Traveller February 2024 edition
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