Riding the conference roller-coaster

What are the merits of taking your delegation to a leisure complex? While the leisure aspect is easy to contemplate, what makes them suitable choices for conferences and meetings?

Emma Kennard, operations manager at full service agency drp, says: “Leisure complexes are a diverse, unique and versatile venue choice for conferences and meetings. Whether or not they are a suitable choice depends on the aims of the client and the objectives of their event. They offer fantastic opportunities to teambuild and there are many that are now comprised of highly immersive, interactive and innovative AV experiences.

“This kind of AV – from VR, to AR, to digital signage for information, or apps that interact with smartphones – has revolutionised theme parks and the experiences we can have there. We tend to book these places for incentives and family away days, however, conferences work too.”

Is it all about the rides and leisure aspect? Karen Johnson, conference office manager at Alton Towers says that the theme park is a suitable conference venue on its own merit. She says: “The resort houses a purpose-built conference centre along with two on-site hotels, offering 516 bedrooms plus our Enchanted Village which features woodland lodges and luxury tree house.”

“Not only is the resort suitable for business meetings, conferences and events for up to 500 delegates, it can also cater for teambuilding and company away days for several thousand people,” she adds.

Are delegates often put off by the idea of meeting at a theme park? Johnson thinks not. She says: “Quite often, when event bookers see what facilities we have, they see why we are such a great venue for a conference.  We have a high number of events that keep coming back to us year after year, testament to the fact that we are able to host great events here at the resort.”

Butlin’s has made a large investment in turning their venues into an all-inclusive facility, where delegates can mix leisure time with decent accommodation.

Butlin’s recently announced its new Fairground Apartments and refurbished Silver Apartments at Skegness, which are now open for conference and events bookings. There are now 93 new Fairground Apartments and 90 newly refurbished Silver Apartments.

Merlin Events, meanwhile, will throw open the doors of the London Dungeon to launch ‘Lates with More Bite: Seven Deadly Sins Edition.’  This offering gives event buyers something unique by offering a culinary journey through the dark streets of London’s past. It is a good place to take a delegation after a long day of meetings in London.

Some multi-activity venues are even taking things to a different level. Center Parcs recently added a spa option to their corporate package.

Ellie Jones, national account manager at Center Parcs, says: “The new Forest Spa at Sherwood Forest can be incorporated into event packages to give delegates a truly relaxing and energising experience with benefits that will continue back in the workplace. Often companies will come to Center Parcs because of our tranquil outdoor environment, which allows delegates to switch off from the demands of everyday life and helps reduce stress levels.” Martin Stephens, corporate events director at agency Off Limits agrees, and says “Clients request corporate and teambuilding events at leisure complexes due to their interesting dynamic and unusual spaces. They are popular options due their fun teambuilding experiences and capacity for delegates.

“The leisure complex venue concept adds value to corporate events as clients can exclusively hire the park and it’s a great reward for employees.”

And, in light of recent tragic events at Drayton Manor Park, event bookers would be well advised to check their insurance policies before taking groups to leisure complexes.

Martin Fullard


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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