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The thrill of a theme park

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CN rides the seasonal conference and meetings rollercoaster at some of the UK’s biggest theme parks.

Alton Towers Alton Towers Resort (pictured)
“By choosing a theme park as a conference venue, organisers are able to ensure their delegates make the most of their downtime,” says Ellie Jones, Business Development Manager at Alton Towers Resort.

While the resort’s hotel and conferencing suites remain open all year round, the park closes during the winter months, during which time guests can use the indoor facilities such as the water park. The closure of the park does not have an effect on conference bookings, Jones says, rather September to December is one of the resort’s peak conferencing periods.

Case study: Nutella hosted its 50th Big Birthday Breakfast at the resort in May with 500 guests. Nutella competition winners were invited to enjoy exclusive early access to the park before a Nutella Breakfast Buffet in the marquee, which doubled up as a VIP base throughout the day offering complimentary refreshments. From 3pm the VIP winners were invited to collect birthday cake and party bags from the marquee, while the team began the sample distribution of 15g Nutella sachets to the general public at the park. Over 6,000 samples were distributed in two hours.

Chessington World of Adventures Resort
The key months for conferences and events at Chessington are May-September, according to Kelly Evans, Head of Sales, who adds that while the park is closed November to March, the Zoo is open on selected weekends and during Christmas. During the off-season the focus turns to corporate conferences and training workshops in Chessington Safari Hotel, as well as Christmas parties.

Case study: Software developer InterSystems held its staff ‘thank you’ away day in September with 174 guests. The resort’s Adventure Day package was booked for the day which included entry to the park, exclusive use of Explorer’s Outpost Marquee in Wild Asia, BBQ lunch and unlimited soft drinks. InterSystems added onto the package with tea, coffee and Danishes on arrival, full account bar available over lunch and afternoon tea. The company also added a Madagascar Character meet and greet, animal meet and greets, fast track tickets, face painters, balloon artist and cookie-making course to the day’s activities.

Client comment: “It was a perfect event. All ran very smoothly and the team at Chessington were brilliant. I have had nothing but praise and compliments regarding the event.

Legoland Windsor Resort
How seasonal is events business at Legoland? Not as seasonal as you may think, according to Resort Sales Experiences Manager Jemma Moreau.

“The Legoland Windsor Hotel is open all year round, and when the park closes from November to March we can utilise our 150 bedrooms purely for corporate guests during the weekdays including full hotel buyouts,” she says.

Summer, Easter and October are busy months within the hotel, and while bedrooms may not be available there is the added benefit of being able to use the park for teambuilding activities.
“Spring and Autumn months are key for a lot of our clients as they can benefit from the hotel and park being quieter, host their residential events as well as use the park during the day and evening after the park closes to really submerge themselves in the Lego experience,” adds Moreau.

Legoland’s seasonal offering:
  • Winter - competitive residential packages
  • Spring and Autumn - all-round packages including teambuilding, residential and evening packages
  • Summer - teambuilding in the park (with the sun!)
Drayton Manor Theme Park
Located in Staffordshire, Drayton Manor Theme Park has hosted a range of events from product launches to large scale exhibitions and conferences. The park has a range of modern, purpose-built venues, as well as historic and quirky venues that have been converted to incorporate events.

Conference and Events Manager at Drayton Manor, Melissa Topley says the park’s success in the corporate market is built on 60 years of experience.

“The majority of our new business comes as a result of word-of-mouth and recommendations from customers, which is a great testament to what we offer,” she says.

With corporate fun days and teambuilding events a proven way of developing relations between staff in a fun and informal environment, Drayton Manor can create bespoke packages for clients of any size, from a BBQ to a private park hire for up to 15,000 people, where guests can enjoy all of the park’s rides and attractions.

“The success of any company is down to its staff, so a motivated workforce is hugely important. Teambuilding events are an excellent way of improving communication with a team, developing trust and leadership skills, and rewarding staff for their hard work,” Topley says.

Drayton Manor also has a hotel available on site meaning guest’s don’t need to worry about travelling home on the same day.

Thorpe Park Resort
Jennifer Connery, Head of Corporate Events at Thorpe Park in Surrey, says that in the past couple of years businesses have increasingly been holding events during the months of October and November, often tying them in with Halloween and the park’s themed Fright Nights.

 “With our proposition of Business for the Thrill of it’, 30 rides and our year-round themed nights and packages, we are not seeing what used to be considered seasonal peaks and troughs,” says Connery. “The resort is becoming as popular in the darker, winter months as in the spring and summer light months.”

Case study: Travel website company Expedia decided to hold its event at Thorpe Park so it could mix business in the morning with thrills in the afternoon. The company invited 150 people for a business morning in the Lake View events space. The package included exclusive use of Lake View, two-course buffet lunch, unlimited soft drinks, tea and coffee breaks and AV technician.

Expedia’s VP of Technology and CTO Thierry Bedos, says: “What makes Thorpe Park so different and adds real value to an event is the fact that delegates have full admission to the resort. We were able to offer an inspiring environment for work in the morning followed by an afternoon of thrills, screams, laughter and fun.”

Butlins
“As a year-round venue, one of our unique selling points is that during certain times of the year, November to March (excluding Christmas and the New Year’s Eve period) the resort is closed to the general public and corporate bookings can exclusively hire out the whole resort, or parts of the resort,” says Kelley McGann, Marketing Manager at Butlins Events.

Butlins has reported a steady growth in events business over the last few years across its three resorts (Bognor, Minehead and Skegness) with a 22 per cent increase over 2013, and corporate meetings and events doubling throughout the 12-month period.

Butlins and Butlins Events recently unveiled plans to further regenerate its Minehead resort with the introduction of a new resort-style hotel. The £20m development will replace some of the site’s existing accommodation and will provide clients with a new overnight and breakout option. The hotel will offer 206 rooms when completed.

Case study: Global cosmetics and fragrance company Elizabeth Arden held its UK annual Christmas launch conference at  Butlins Bognor Regis in July for 70 delegates. The two-day event utilised the Shoreline Conference Centre, Turner’s Restaurant, Ocean Hotel, Prince’s Suite, Shoreline Restaurant, Jaks Bar and Kaleidoscope Restaurant, all of which provided a range of facilities for the launch event.

This was first published in the November issue of CN. Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor

26 Nov 14

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