Business by the sea

For VisitBrighton Convention Bureau one of the key ways in which they are converting enquiries into events is by inviting clients to experience the cosmopolitan city of Brighton for themselves.

“Our conversion rate leaps when we have the opportunity to show clients around the city; in the first quarter we hosted three familiarisation trips and attended an industry event and as a result, some great new business contacts and enquiries have been generated,” says Julia Gallagher, Manager of VisitBrighton.

Gallagher says that going into 2014 the bureau was “quietly confident that business levels would continue to rise and so far our optimism has been proved correct. In the first quarter we have seen an increase in both enquiry levels and conversion rates”.

Brighton’s popularity as a destination continues to grow, according to Gallagher, who notes that several venues have benefitted from improvements and refurbishment programmes over the past year. For conferences and events, Brighton’s portfolio of venues includes the largest purpose-built conference and exhibition space in the south of England, the Brighton Centre; the iconic Royal Pavilion; and hotels including the Hilton Brighton Metropole and The Grand.

“Brighton has had a great deal of tlc lavished on its premier venues recently and this has created a ripple of confidence throughout the city,” says Gallagher. “Once one venue makes the effort another follows. This is evident on the seafront in particular.”

The 5,ooo-seat Brighton Centre has benefited from a £3m investment programme and recently opened up its syndicate wing to become an integral part of the meeting space. The wing is spread over two floors and can host two meetings for 400 theatre-style, or be split to accommodate four meetings of 200.

The centre has sustainability high up on its agenda, and was recently awarded ISO 14001 and ISO 20121 for its event management systems. The centre actively encourages its clients to use its Sustainable Events Guide, and the venue is in the process of introducing a sustainable events standard, whereby if organisers can identify 10 of the suggested sustainable criteria contained in the Events Guide for Conference Organisers, the event will receive accreditation as being an Approved Sustainable Event, which they can promote on event documentation.

“Our aim is to turn an organisation’s own ethical, social or environmental values into practical and visible elements of their event; such as running clubs, making links to a chosen charity or specifying fair-trade food and giveaways,” says Penny Parker, Venues Business and Operations Manager for Brighton & Hove City Council.

Other venue investments in Brighton include a multi-million pound makeover at The Grand, which has a maximum capacity of 1,100 guests standing. Event spaces at the venue include The Pavilion and Empress Room for 80 and 250 delegates theatre-style, respectively.

Hilton Brighton Metropole has also been on the receiving end of investment and has undergone a substantial programme of refurbishment work. Retaining its historic feel but casting an eye to the future, the hotel, which offers 35 meeting space including seven exhibition halls and 340 bedrooms, has completed an expansive transformation.

The breath of fresh air that seaside resorts are associated with has been extended into the hotels’ meeting rooms with a contemporary and light design.

The first phase of refurbishment saw the renovation of the Oxford Suite and exhibition areas. The suite can be used separately or linked together with the Cambridge Suite, Durham Suite and exhibition halls offering up to 5,700sqm of flexible event space. The next phase saw the meeting rooms on the ground floor Ambassador Suite, Sandringham Suite and Osborne Suite being refurbished, while the third stage saw a refurbishment of the Clarence and Lancaster Suite.

The Hilton Brighton Metropole was one of the key venues used for the Penguin Random House Company Conference in February for 1,200 delegates. Robert Enefer from The Conference People, which organised the event, says: “The event was really successful and Brighton came up trumps. Delegates were happy with the hotels; we used eight in total, and the conference sessions worked perfectly in the Hilton Brighton Metropole and the De Vere Grand. We also had a dine-around in 20 locations in the city ranging from The Sea Life Centre to Jamie’s Italian. The weather was perfect too.”

Other event venues in Brighton include the Royal Pavilion where the State Rooms, Banqueting Room and Great Kitchen are three areas of the Royal Palace organisers can hire for receptions, dinners or cocktail parties. The Brighton Dome, part of the Royal Pavilion Estate and located in the famous North Laines area of Brighton, has five venues available to hire for events with capacity for 1,200 guests for a reception. The venue’s Concert Hall is suitable for product launches and conferences, while its Corn Exchange hosts events including exhibitions, fashion shows and private dinners. 

The Amex Stadium, home to Brighton & Hove Albion FC, recently appointed a new GM, Tony Crosbie of Sodexo Prestige, who managed just under 300,000 guests in the first three months of this year. The stadium has a range of rooms with pitch and downland views available for use as event or exhibition space. The Bupa Lounge seats 500 people for a banquet, while the Overline Lounge can seat 350 for dinner.

A seaside stroll

The compact design of Brighton makes the city easy for delegates to navigate and get around on foot, one of the reasons why Brighton was chosen as the destination for the Labour Party Conference last September.

“We chose Brighton for a number of reasons,” Carol Linforth, Director of Conferences and Events for The Labour Party told CN. “When and where possible we like to move our conference between the north and south of the country. We had not been to Brighton since 2009 and they have invested in improving the Brighton Centre which made it a much better venue all round. We also require a minimum amount of affordable accommodation close by for all the Labour Party delegates and visitors.”

If meeting by the sea takes your fancy, why not experience some of Brighton’s bohemian spirit and host your next conference or event in what many regard as Britain’s coolest seaside city.

This was first published in the May issue of CN. Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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