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NAME:Jeremy Rees
ExCeL London CEO Jeremy Rees explains the business strategy behind the prestigious conference venue’s biggest-ever expansion plan.

In the almost 25 years since the vast exhibition and conference center, ExCeL London, opened in the heart of the city’s historic Royal Docks, it has supported 37,000 jobs and contributed an extraordinary US$6 billion to the local economy annually.

Its more than 100,000 square meters of meeting space hosts over 400 events a year for 40,000 exhibiting companies and more than four million people, and accounts for a quarter of London’s business tourists.

Now, under an ambitious expansion plan overseen by CEO Jeremy Rees, it’s about to become even bigger, with a range of state-of-the-art facilities that’ll make it one of the most technologically advanced and versatile event venues in Europe.

ExCeL, which is the capital’s only International Conference Center (ICC), has been used for everything from the G20 Summit, World Travel Market and London Tech Week to flagship events for Google, Amazon, Adobe and Gartner as well as the world’s largest cardiovascular congress, consumer shows including Pokemon and MCM Comic Con, multiple Mission Impossible film sets and even an Ed Sheeran music video.

“It’s a transformational piece of infrastructure for London and means we can host very different, very exciting new events.”

It also played host to seven Olympic and six Paralympic events during the 2012 London Games.

The business, which is owned by Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Company, also owns two on-site hotels, Aloft Marriott and Hilton DoubleTree.

The US$274-million expansion, undertaken by McLaren Group, includes an additional convention center, exhibition halls and conference rooms, modern meeting rooms and catering facilities, waterside views and a new public realm and greenery.

“We’ll be leading the way globally in terms of venue proposition, as we have invested a great deal in IT infrastructure to meet the evolving expectations of our customer and visitor bases,” Rees tells The CEO Magazine.

“It’s a transformational piece of infrastructure for London and means we can host very different, very exciting new events as well as expanding the ones we put on at the moment. We’re also investing heavily into the venue’s surrounding infrastructure, including our on-site hotels. It’s certainly been a busy time, but very rewarding.”

Speedy Rebound

Rees joined ExCeL as Sales Director in 2010 after seven years with another renowned events company, Earls Court & Olympia Group. He was appointed CEO in 2018, 18 months before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the biggest live events crisis London had ever endured.

But the industry fight back has been just as dramatic.

“Business rebounded so quickly,” he says. “Last year we were up 10 percent on 2019 profit levels and it’s been an absolute joy to observe how robust the recovery has been and how emphatic our customers are in their desire to put on trade shows, conferences and other corporate events.

“For us, getting back to business as usual involved supporting our staff at every stage and investing in more training so that everyone was back up to speed.”

Levy UK + Ireland has been the catering partner at ExCeL since 2000 and is responsible for putting food and drink at the heart of events, delivering catering for conferences, events, hospitality and retail sales. The long-standing relationship is testament to the clear food and beverage sustainable strategies which have been developed together and delivered by a dedicated team.” – Kevin Watson, Business Director and Sustainability Director, Levy UK + Ireland


The renewed momentum made this year’s expansion critical in keeping up with customer demands.

The new extension, which opens in October 2024, will be made up of net-zero carbon-ready venues, built using 50 percent recycled steel, rain harvesting systems, solar panels and air source heat pumps.

The entire ExCeL complex will boast more than 30 gourmet restaurants, bars and cafes, many supplied by leading corporate dining experts Levy.

“It will boost our capacity by 25 percent,” Rees says, “but it won’t be just the same sort of space we have now, it’ll be fundamentally different and open up some fantastic customer experiences.

“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we can continue to develop our products to enhance people’s experiences both technologically and aesthetically.”

Immersive Experiences

But it’s not the only major transformation Rees is overseeing this year.

“We’re working with major global brands to create a new, kilometer-long immersive events district along the water frontage that will involve long-term residencies combined with great food and beverage offerings. These experiences will attract both families and the after-hours corporate market, all complemented by our existing world class facilities and transport links.

“Right now, we’re staging Disney100: The Exhibition, which is amazing, and before that it was an interactive Jurassic World exhibition. People visit us from all over the world, so we’re adding value to the tourism ecosystem.

“Later this year, we will be announcing the first three immersive events that will be taking place in this exciting space.”

“We have spent a lot of time thinking about how we can continue to develop our products to enhance people’s experiences.”

It’s estimated that the new waterfront development alone will attract up to two million visitors a year.

Rees takes a data-driven approach to futureproofing every aspect of ExCeL, from the sweeping exhibition halls to the meeting spaces and leisure facilities. For each, the evolving needs of the customers and visitors are front and center.

“We’ve drilled into what people need both now and in years to come, and it’s been a fascinating exercise,” he says. “We take a very long-term view in terms of capital investments into improving our services, so it’s vital for us to understand industry trends.”

Brand Values

Perhaps the biggest current trend is making live events as sustainable as possible. And that doesn’t just mean carbon footprints.

“Brands have to consider several ESG perspectives such as being good corporate citizens and creating value in and around the entire ecosystem,” he explains.

“Take, for example, a medical congress. The organizers have to think very carefully about not only connecting lives but how they impact communities and what sort of legacy the event will leave. That’s a very powerful change in our customers’ desires and expectations that we have to take into account.”

“It’s already hard to overstate ExCeL London’s contribution to the capital’s tourism industry, but the 25 percent expansion in progress is still needed to enable London to keep pace with the world’s largest event spaces. McLaren supports this competitive vision by creating high-quality, sustainable new spaces and embedding the construction data needed for efficient management.” – Darren Gill, Managing Director – London & South, McLaren Construction


Today and tomorrow’s trade shows are significant catalysts for import and export activities for London and the United Kingdom, and, of course, are omnichannel exercises in imparting information in a number of different ways, with a key focus on customer experience and delivering memorable and valuable experiences.

“There’s an expectation that technology will play a significant role in facilitating curated serendipity for buyers and sellers that will leave lasting impressions,” he says.

“What’s interesting to me is how the digital world dovetails very neatly with the physical, face-to-face world. That’s why we’re seeing far more large-scale proprietary events from the likes of Google, Salesforce and Microsoft that bring together channel partners in more meaningful ways.”

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