When you are looking to host a conference or event that really stands out, it’s not just the venue that can offer guests an upper class experience. High end catering, top class service and AV can all contribute to creating a five-star experience for delegates.
“Most top end venues have striking architectural features with period detail combined with contemporary style. It means organisers get the best of both worlds; grand conference and event spaces with all the facilities and AV equipment of a dedicated conference centre,” says General Manager at Beaumont Estate, Peter Ingels.
Set in 40 acres of parkland in Windsor, Beaumont Estate’s event spaces include the Hanover Suite for 550 guests; a dedicated Conference Village with four suites; and new Tudor Suite with walled garden and lounge area for 150 guests. The White House, an executive wing, offers seven meeting rooms, 10 suites and 26 guest rooms, making it ideal for exclusive high class events.
Often referred to as one of Britain’s top stately homes, Brocket Hall (pictured) is located in a 543-acre estate in Welwyn, Hertfordshire and has accommodated its fair share of rich and famous Lords, Ladies, Kings, Queens and politicians. Within the grounds there are three venues for conferences: Brocket Hall, the Brocket Hall Golf Club and restaurant Auberge du Lac. Between the three venues, the estate can cater for 150 delegates. The venue can also offer a fine-dining experience, either in its grand ballroom, which can seat up to 54 people, or the more intimate dining room.
“Brocket Hall is a high security venue and has the ability to lockdown and provide complete anonymity, which has made the venue a popular choice within the financial sector,” says General Manager John Keating.
For an ultra secure, yet upper class experience, the Amazing Venues portfolio consists of three Solent Forts. Spitbank Fort, situated on its own private island, can offer luxury, privacy and security. As well as complete exclusivity, the Fort includes a full working crew, with a private chef and sommelier. Event spaces include the Crow’s Nest which offers 360-degree views of the Solent and Portsmouth Harbour.
Also part of the Amazing Venues portfolio is Ackergill Tower in Caithness, Scotland. Opened to the public in 2012, the 15th century castle has been transformed into a luxury retreat steeped in history with a traditional Scottish touch. The venue’s Summer Palace offers banqueting capacity for 150 guests.
Amazing Venue Stanbrook Abbey is a former monastery set in 21 acres of Worcestershire countryside. Opened as a luxury corporate events venue in 2012, its event spaces include the Callow Great Hall, which can host 100 guests.
Although London has many five-star venues, not all have a view of Big Ben and were previously a political HQ like the Marriott Hotel County Hall. The hotel has 13 meeting rooms, including the Parliament Suite for 100 delegates, 10 breakout rooms and 200 guest bedrooms and suites. Five-star service and cuisine, as well as advanced AV equipment are available.
Exclusive sports and social club, The Hurlingham Club in London, says the exclusivity and privacy it can offer makes the venue stand out as a high end option for events. The venue offers 1,500sqm of events space, two terraces overlooking the River Thames and 42-acres of private grounds.
Exclusive Hotels and Venues’ The Royal Berkshire prides itself on offering a high class experience from the get-go with its sweeping drive which leads up to the 17th century Queen Anne Mansion House. Originally built for the Churchill family, the building’s Berkshire Suite can host up to 200 delegates.
An investment of £250,000 has resulted in a new technology update including 55” Smart Screens, Evoline Ports and LED lighting.
If you want to indulge in some English splendour, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire offers 10 event spaces including the Great Hall, Long Library and Saloon for up to 300 guests. The home of the 11th Duke of Marlborough and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill hosts events including elegant dinners, conferences and product launches.
Top of the league conferencing
It’s not just five-star hotels and luxury stately homes that can offer a five-star experience. With sports venues investing in their offering they continue to rise up the conference league table. Wembley Stadium connected by EE is a multi-purpose high end venue and says it can offer a high standard of conference facilities, against the backdrop of unique architecture.
“High end venues appeal to organisers. It is one thing having an event at a quality venue, but add to that the surroundings, history and world class event facilities and it makes an event that bit more special,” says Business Development Manager, Ruth Kaye.
Manchester City Football Club’s most prestigious suite, The Chairman’s Club, was redesigned in the summer of 2012. Situated within The Etihad Stadium, the suite offers exclusive fine dining for 220 guests.
Offering high end cuisine can also evoke a sense of prestige and high class, something Sodexo Prestige has recognised with the recent launch of Prestige Venues & Events, its premium service offer. A bespoke solution for the sports, leisure, conferences and events market, Sodexo says the new service offer ensures exceptional quality standards across all food, facilities management and value-added services.
Bigger budget required?
Upper class conferencing immediately raises the question of budget, and how much bigger it needs to be. “These types of venues are able to price higher, but prices between five-star venues with the same facilities will vary depending on location,” says Kim Collins, Director of Events at Capita Travel and Events. “Everything from F&B and AV is negotiable too, but being clear on what you need included in your delegate rate is important. It also depends on what you want to achieve from the event. If you’re hosting a conference for VIP customers and you take them to a five-star venue, do you really want to cut corners on event production and menu?”
In terms of whether these types of venues are worth the extra money Collins says it all comes down to perception, event objectives, brand messaging and making a statement. “It’s not all about stately homes and small boutiques either because organisers may be happy to consider paying more for new and innovative high end venues too. Something new to the market will have a unique draw.
“However, there are organisations that can’t be seen to be booking five-star and will have a policy that doesn’t allow it, whether they have the budget or not.”
Five-star venues do have the benefit of driving bigger delegate numbers and being used as the prime pull for an event, she says.
And what is Collin’s over-riding advice when deciding whether to go all out and conference upper-class style? “As with all venues, not just five-star, you have to remain strong on your objectives and plan.”
This was first published in the May issue of CN. Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor