Going off the mainland and experiencing meetings islands in UK waters may be something that doesn’t immediately cross organisers’ minds, but with an array of conferencing facilities and incentive activities, offshore meetings should float to the forefront of organisers’ minds as potential hosting options, particularly at this time of year.
Jersey, is a meetings and conferencing destination full of potential.
The largest of the Channel Islands, and the most southerly, Jersey can be accessed from 27 UK airports, including London airports, Manchester, and Aberdeen, as well as from three ports via sea, Poole, Portsmouth, and Weymouth.
Jo Harris, project manager at CWT Meetings and Events says hosting a conferencing in Jersey doesn’t need much more planning than a mainland destination as “the flight time is 40 minutes so this could work out better (cost-wise) if not the same as some rail fares for the same distance in the UK mainland.”
When it comes to deciding where to hold your conference on Jersey there are 18 hotels with meeting facilities to choose from.
The 4* Atlantic Hotel offers facilities for small conferences of up to 60 delegates. Just 10 minutes from the airport, this hotel also offers an extensive golf course, and views of St Ouen’s Bay. Its private dining room, the Italian Room, is also available for corporate entertaining.
The 5* Grand Jersey hotel also offers conferencing facilities in the form of a business centre. It consists of meeting rooms, break-out rooms, and a private cinema for up to 36 delegates for presentations. The Grand Suite is the largest of the event spaces on offer, and can accommodate 200 delegates.
Harris recommends Jersey as her favourite offshore conference destination because she feels “it creates a good delegate experience and break away for the guests without breaking the budget.”
With many beaches like Rozel Harbour, Gorey, and St Aubin’s Bay, delegates can partake in a bundle of sea activities, such as coasteering and scuba diving.
Or with its rich history, there are attractions including the war tunnel and Elizabeth Castle that may also take delegates’ fancy.
Speaking of leisure activities, you may want to be careful to shield yourself from the sun in Jersey, as the island has recently be named one of the skin cancer capitals of the world according to The Mirror.
According to Wendy Pedder, marketing manager for VisitGuernsey, Guernsey’s number one selling point is its “proximity to mainland UK, with excellent links from London and the South East.”
Pedder says that the island is “just a short flight from the UK (45 minutes) yet gives the perception of going far away with its coastal landscapes, rural roads, and history.”
Auringy airline offers discount for groups of 10 or more people, and by sea, Condor Ferries operates crossings from Poole and Portsmouth with a travel time of four and seven hours respectively. Discounted rates are offered for groups.
Alex Mildenstein, senior sales executive at Ashfield Meetings and Events, says that a benefit of holding a conference in Guernsey is that “delegates are fully immersed in the nature of the event, as they can’t go home.”
Guernsey has over 10 venues available to choose from for conferences and meetings.
The Beau Sejour Leisure Centre can hold up to 800-seated delegates in its David Ferguson Hall, while boasting 1,600 seats in its Sir John Loveridge Hall. Both halls are available for conferences, meetings, presentations, trade shows, and exhibitions.
Meanwhile St James Concert Hall’s provides space for up to 120 people in its Dorey Room, and space for 40 delegates in its Founder’s Room for smaller meetings and conferences.
Pedder enthuses that Guernsey “makes an ideal destination for an incentive trip as it has a wide range of activities and attractions to suit all.” Incentive activities include, clay pigeon shooting, cycling tours, and island hopping to Herm or Sark.
Scotland’s 200 islands present a multitude of possibilities for organisers, and have accommodation for delegates, albeit for smaller meetings. Some have their own airports, with Shetland and Orkney having regular flights from the mainland.
The island of Arran, the Isle of Mull, and the island of Harris all boast conferencing facilities, on top of leisure activities like golf, and watersports.
Harris says the weather is a cause for concern when hosting a conference on an island as not only could it affect transport via sea to the island but “if the weather is bad this could affect which activities the group would be able to do as a lot of these can be based around the sea.”
Islands of potential
Many of the British islands, including the Isle of Wight and Osea Island, Essex, are places often overlooked when organisers make their list of destination options. All the more space for those in the know, however.
“Bonuses include no time difference, limited travel time, no language barriers, and often a better climate than the mainland with more hours of sunshine,” concludes Mildenstein.
Perhaps it is time to take that conference leap offshore.