Discovering new and unique venues and experiences for business events is always a challenge, so much so that it was identified as the third biggest concern by corporate event planners in C&IT’s State of the Industry Report 2017.
That’s why C&IT, in partnership with Butlin’s, hosted a roundtable debate on the subject earlier this month as part of Butlin’s first VIP Agents Day. Planners from agencies including Capita Travel and Events, Chillisauce, The fresh Group, Meet and Potato, Big Blue 8, Crescendo and Activate gathered at Butlin’s Bognor Regis on 6 July, for an exclusive experience organised by the Butlin’s Conference and Events team.
The day kicked off with the roundtable session and Butlin’s Bognor Regis could not have provided a better backdrop for discussing the topic of unique venues, challenging the status quo and how to get clients out of their comfort zone. The debate covered the lack of larger venues, particularly residential venues that are available for big corporate events around the UK.
Planners discussed the fact that once you get over a group size of 500+, venues are few and far between and there is not a great deal of choice outside of the major conference centres and hotels. This means that competition for those venues is incredibly fierce, and events need to be booked way ahead to secure the space at a time when planners say that lead times are shorter than ever.
The debate moved onto the alternative venues that are available and naturally Butlin’s was among those discussed. Meet and Potato and Big Blue 8, which have organised events for Holland and Barrett and Argos at Butlin’s, admitted that while it might seem like a bit of a wild card when you first propose it to clients, Butlin’s really does work brilliantly for corporate events. Benefits discussed were the ability to take over an entire resort, or just hire a small area, plus all the F&B options on-site, the wide range of different spaces and the added extras like the fairground, plus the fact that delegates love the experience.
Following the roundtable, agents got to experience what Butlin’s has to offer first hand with a guided tour of the Bognor Regis site, taking in the accommodation which has recently enjoyed a multi-million pound makeover to reflect this fantastic resort’s south coast location. This includes its three hotels: The Wave, The Ocean and The Shoreline. The Ocean boasts 200 rooms, the Ocean Spa and Kaleidoscope Restaurant with sun terrace, The Wave offers 215 rooms and 29 apartments, and The Shoreline has 160 rooms and six suites with sea-views, and is directly opposite the Shoreline Conference Centre, making life easy and comfortable for delegates.
The tour also took in the Shoreline Conference Centre, which can accommodate up to 550 in total across a range of spaces from discrete boardrooms for 12 to The Grosvenor Suite for up to 400. Agents also got to see the resort’s wide range of leisure facilities, which can be used for corporate events, and take a sneak peak in the dining venues, which include the brand new traditional fish and chips outlet (which some of the group who arrived the previous evening were also lucky enough to taste alongside the new cocktail menu!).
After the tour, Butlin’s treated the group to a visit to Goodwood estate for the ultimate driving experience and lunch. Agents got exclusive hire of the track for the entire afternoon and under the watchful eye of Goodwood’s expert professional drivers, experienced driving a range of cars from the BMW M5 and M6 to Minis and the i8 Hybrid sports car. A soft tissue therapist was also on hand for the afternoon to soothe aching muscles.
The experience at Goodwood, which is just a 20 minutes drive from Butlin’s Bognor Regis was just one example of a number of off-site activities that the Butlin’s Conference and Events team can organise in the local area through their connections and partnerships.
Guests were then whisked back to Butlin’s for a little down time before an exclusive dinner in Turners restaurant hosted by celebrity chef, Brian Turner. The group got to choose from an exclusive menu featuring dishes such as Citrus & beetroot marinated salmon, Chargrilled Goodwood Kofta, Twice Cooked pork belly with bubble and squeak and spiced apple, Baked Fillet of Hake served on a potato crab cake and Chocolate and Brazil Nut Torte. Dinner was accompanied by fine wine and the company of Brian Turner, who at special request can also be available to attend corporate events. Guests then spent the night at the venue’s Ocean hotel before departing the following morning.