Lancashire is looking to emulate the success of newly promoted Blackpool Football Club by taking the region into the premier league of conference destinations. Lancashire & Blackpool Conferences & Meetings, a new partnership between the Lancashire and Blackpool Tourist Board (LBTB) and Visit Blackpool, will highlight the region's offer to the business community. The newly refocused business tourism initiative will be competing directly with northwest rivals Liverpool and Manchester.
LBTB director of marketing Tony Openshaw says: "We are providing an opportunity for decision-makers to see the selection of conference venues we have across Lancashire and Blackpool. From grand halls steeped in history, like Burnley's 13th-century Towneley Hall, to the Pleasure Beach Resort, Blackpool, we are confident we have something to meet all requirements."
Lancashire and Blackpool welcomed around 3.5m business visitors in the past year, with 62,650 delegates attending 61 events in Blackpool alone. Recent events include 250 O2 delegates at the Pleasure Beach Resort in Blackpool.
Since Blackpool FC gained promotion in May this year, the number of enquiries taken by the bureau for Blackpool alone has increased by 17 per cent. "We are encouraging buyers to take a fresh look at Blackpool," says Mandy Tythe-McCallum. "We have the venues by day for business and the attractions of the resort by night for incentives."
Lancashire & Blackpool Conference & Meetings is adopting a targeted strategy to attract corporate buyers by attending events such as the HRD Conference & Exhibition to be held at Olympia next April. "Our appearance at these events is part of our co-ordinated campaign to highlight Lancashire and Blackpool to as wide an audience of businesses, organisations and societies as possible," says Tony Openshaw.
Erika Aylwin, business relationship executive at Pastest, a company providing revision resources for medical professionals, recently used the Blackpool branch of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce for an event. She says: "Lancashire & Blackpool Conference & Meetings found us a venue that suited our purpose and was within our budget."
The major development in terms of infrastructure is Blackpool Council's decision to acquire Blackpool Tower and the Winter Gardens from Leisure Parcs as part of a £38.9m deal, which also includes the Sea Life Centre and Louis Tussaud's Waxworks. The redevelopment of the Winter Gardens will be in three phases, the first of which includes an upgrade of the Pavilion Theatre and refurbishment of the Arena by spring 2011. The work will render the Winter Gardens Lancashire's largest venue for private dining; it currently accommodates up to 1,000 delegates banquet style in the Empress Ballroom. A £10m programme of works is also planned for Blackpool Tower.
Park Hall Hotel, set in 100 acres of wooded countryside near Chorley, has 18 meeting spaces accommodating 700 delegates theatre-style in the Lancastrian Suite, plus the teambuilding Activity Zone in the grounds. The hotel offers 140 rooms, including a chocolate-themed Cadbury Room.
The Best Western Premier Leyland Hotel, located at junction 28 of the M6 by Preston, has recently undergone a £7.5m refurbishment, including upgrading the 93 bedrooms and 16 meeting spaces, accommodating up to 250 delegates in the Venetian Suite. The Grade II-listed art deco Midland Hotel in Morecambe has four meeting spaces, including the Eric Gill room for up to 140, plus 44 boutique-style rooms.
Ribby Hall Village, a luxury holiday park between Blackpool and Preston on the Fylde Coast, has a new 'treehouse' conference suite, accommodating 12 delegates. Conventional conference spaces, such as the Woodland Suite, can accommodate up to 360. Blackpool FC unveils its upgraded Armfield South Stand this winter with 60 hotel rooms and three hospitality areas. Blackpool's South Pier will undergo an £8m redevelopment project, combining a 4,180m2 family entertainment centre with conference facilities, boosting venue capacity by Easter 2012.
Offbeat incentive options include Mytton Fold Hotel & Golf Complex near Blackburn, which offers free golf for residents after 4pm. Stevens Weighing & Traceability Solutions UK service manager Darren Fisher says: "The recent addition of new bedrooms means we can now include additional personnel for our sales meetings." Carnforth Railway Station, the setting for 1940s film Brief Encounter, offers the Carnforth Station Visitor Centre for meetings combined with a tour of the former film set. Finally, Tower Festival Headland, the jewel in the crown of the £50m redevelopment of the Blackpool seafront, is due for completion in summer 2011. The space will accommodate up to 20,000 people.
Some 20 ambassadors, from local businesses and academia, signed up for the bureau's Conference Ambassadors initiative, which launched in June this year. The aim is to have 40 ambassadors by March 2011. Lancashire & Blackpool Conferences & Meetings supports the group with bidding documents, booking accommodation and hosting fact-finding visits to the area.
Directory: Lancashire & Blackpool Conferences & Meetings
Contact: Ruth Robinson or Mandy Tythe-McCallum
Tel: 0845 3714453