By Sammi Rudge, business tourism development officer, Southport Conferences
It now seems archaic, and more than a little bit cheesy, when we think back on the classic party political conference photograph of the suited politician cycling along the sea front in a quaint old British seaside resort.
As someone who both works in the meetings and events industry and represents a seaside destination, these images really make me cringe. They tell a story of dated politics, unsophisticated meetings, and ‘tired’ seaside resorts. I’m therefore absolutely delighted to see the recent resurgence of Britain’s coastal towns, and with it, the conference industry by the sea.
We’re seeing some amazing events once again choosing UK destinations because of the beach resort feel they offer and the excellent conference facilities they find there. And why shouldn’t they? Coastal towns with their beaches and fresh sea air immediately offer a completely different experience to either country or city based meetings and events. They open up a new option for the social itinerary as well as an incentive ground for all manner of teambuilding activities.
By their nature, seaside resorts also have ‘ready to go’ accommodation that can be agile enough to fluctuate with rising numbers; worthy of note for the larger meetings.
Our own destination of Southport not only has the big brand hotels and sophisticated boutique style offers such as the stunning Formby Hall Golf Resort & Spa, but also a wealth of luxury B&Bs that have become really popular with event professionals and their delegations.
Food is also on the up by the seaside, and while we’ll never put anyone off fish and chips, candy floss and sugared donuts, Southport is awash with quality independent restaurants.
However, one of the main reasons we think there is a mini-beach revolution in event destinations, is the growing trend within the industry towards delegate health. Again, this is where we do extremely well. Beaches seem to attract runners in their growing numbers, cyclists like the terrain, yoga fans like the beach as a place to relax and exercise and, when the sunshine hits, there is a real calling for outside activity. Throw in links golf and suddenly you have a lifestyle event as well. It’s something we really encourage when we speak to conference organisers.
So, while we’re delighted to see the return of the party political conferences to seaside resorts, we’re also excited by the shift of other event professionals to take a fresh look and open up a whole world of options for their events.