Meet by the sea, sand, or inland

When picking a destination for your meeting or conference, you will most likely want to twin it with some sort of activity. The UK is fortunate in that it has no shortage of seaside towns and cities or inclusive resorts.

We take a look around the land to see what’s out there.

Beside the seaside

If the UK isn’t short of one thing, it’s seaside locations, and none capture the very essence of Britain’s past and present better than Brighton. Towering Georgian and Victorian buildings look over the city that has been synonymous with British sub-culture, from the Mods on their Vespas to an enthusiastic Green and LGBT movement, there’s no disguising the vibrancy of the place.

While the East Pier is still arguably the city’s most popular destination, even the long-since destroyed West Pier offers a scene of interest.

On the business visits side, Brighton has plenty of hotels, with over 10,000 beds available. The Hilton Brighton Metropole is the largest residential meeting facility in the South of England with 340 bedrooms and 28 meeting rooms with capacity for 30 to 1,300.

The Brighton Centre has the capacity for 4,500 delegates as well as boasting 18 meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 200.

blackpool

Moving north, Blackpool still manages to retain its traditional seaside values. Like Brighton, it is one of the country’s most famous and long-serving seaside cities. Once a popular destination for political parties, the city has seen an influx in corporates in recent years.

One major draw is the famous Pleasure Beach, home to the Big One, a rollercoaster which needs no introduction. The Sandcastle Waterpark is close by and offers the opportunity to experience the world’s longest indoor rollercoaster waterslide.

Then of course there is the famous 380ft Blackpool Tower with its perilous Skywalk. It also serves as a great place to take in the city’s renowned illuminations.

The city boasts over 300 accredited hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses. While the old adage “Blackpool has a million beds” can’t be verified, there’s certainly no shortage. The signature hotel is the Imperial Hotel, a huge Victorian building originally built in 1867.

Conferencing is well catered for, with over 100 facilities. Winter Gardens is by far the most popular, dating back to 1875. It can accommodate up to 5,000. Indeed, this year Blackpool has already seen 15,000 people to turn up at the Royal Pigeon Racing Association event, while 7,000 are expected at the International Fitness Showcase in March and 10,000 are expected at Pride, and the PDC Darts over the summer.

All-in-one

If you would rather take your delegation to an all-inclusive resort rather than a city then, again, the UK is well catered for.

One venue that combines the seaside and inclusiveness is Butlin’s. Ideal for meetings of all sizes, the chance to book large sections of the resort is a popular one. The resort posted a 24% profit increase in 2016 year-on-year. Simon Jones, national sales manager says: “Inclusive resorts offer event planners added value and peace of mind as everything can be handled by one supplier with one line of contact. This helps ensure consistency of quality and can take a lot of the stress out of the logistics.

“Our three coastal resorts offer delegates a unique and exciting alternative to traditional city event spaces at what can only be described as a corporate playground. What’s more, being able to look after the entire event means we can go the extra mile to add value.”

Of course, there are plenty of options inland, too. Drayton Manor Park & Hotel is one example. Located only 30 minutes from Birmingham, it is the ideal Midlands resort for those coming from most corners of the country. 

The key attraction is, of course, the famous Drayton Manor Park. The events team at the family run theme park can create any event to suit specific needs, from quick visits to entire park buyout days.

Corporate clients can book bespoke team building days, which are designed with an emphasis on fun, and enhancing team performance. Two-hour theme park entry is also available from the Hotel, should there be a need to incorporate it into the agenda.

Center Parcs is also ideal for spending time outdoors, which is vital for mental and physical wellbeing. Ellie Jones, national account manager, says: “Numerous studies have shown that there are arsignificant health benefits from spending time in parkland and forests engaged in physical activity. It stimulates creativity and innovation, and cultivates a valuable team dynamic that ultimately results in delegates having fun, and being more productive.”

The same is true at Alton Towers. Karen Johnson, corporate events manager, says: “As resorts are built for holidays, it helps delegates leave any work woes behind and feel at ease. A key objective for many event bookers is to improve internal relations and build team relationships, so it’s really important that everyone is together in one place.”

What the agents say

Karen Rogers, team manager at Conference Care, believes that clients looking for a resort or seaside location will invariably be looking for a ‘wow factor’. She tells CN: “Clients will have a wish list, with one or two elements of their brief being the driving factors in their search. If they are seeking a fantastic resort the ‘wow factor’ really is in the eye of the beholder – our job is to listen to the client, apply our experience and suggest options that really grab them, regardless of industry trends.”

However, Anna Snoep, meetings & events manager at Inntel, believes leisure often takes a back seat to valuable content, while accessibility remains a key factor. “One of the key requirements has become accessibility as delegates travel from all over the UK and sometimes also Europe. Good motorway or public transport access, and international airports, have become more popular. Conferences are much more focused on delivering quality of content to the delegate and ensuring the time away from work is spent in a valuable way, the ‘leisure’ aspect of attending a conference has become less important.”

Martin Fullard

Author

Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard: journalist, presenter, producer. Martin is the Deputy Editor at Conference News and Conference & Meetings World magazines. He leads the digital channels on Mash Media’s Conference Division as well as heading up Mash TV. He is formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

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