Born in Exeter, Richard Cuthbert moved to the Isle of Man in 1961, and he has resided on the island since. He joined the Department of Tourism and Leisure in 1984 and was appointed marketing officer for Everymann Holidays - the department's own tour operator - in 1990.
In 1998, he was appointed marketing database and research officer, overseeing the company's market research. In 2004, he was given the task of developing the department's conference bureau to draw UK and international C&I groups to the island.
What is the convention bureau currently doing to promote the Isle of Man as a C&I destination?
We are reshaping the bureau after a lull in activity and have recently launched our brand new conference brochure, featuring 21 venues. We have also produced a three-minute DVD for the conference market and we are very close to finalising a CD-Rom version of the brochure, which will feature the three-minute promotional film, as well as 360 deg virtual tours of all the venues. This will eventually form the basis of a new conference website.
We are planning an ambassador programme for the near future, and we embarked on a direct mail campaign to 7,000 conference organisers purchased from the BACD database at the end of August, and we are starting to receive replies. We will commission an advertising campaign to run over six months starting in November.
Most importantly, we are encouraging conference organisers to visit the Isle of Man on fam trips to see first hand what we have to offer. Our facilities compare very favourably with other destinations - the refurbishment of the Villa Marina and the excellent range of hotels and guesthouses on the island will establish us as a quality destination. Indeed, the Isle of Man's economy has grown every year for the past 22 years at an average of six per cent each year and, accordingly, its residents and visitors enjoy the highest quality of life in the British Isles.
We can assist the conference planners in a number of ways - venue finding, getting quotes, researching itineraries, sourcing support services, accommodation, social programmes, conference bids, fam trips and tourist information.
Are you targeting agencies or corporates?
We are targeting both. We would like to increase the number of medium-sized conferences of up to 1,200 delegates. However, we are also here to assist smaller corporate conferences. More than half of the conferences we have helped since 2004 have been for 100 delegates or fewer.
Which major corporates have been over to the island recently?
As you would expect, several large off-shore finance institutions have held functions on the Isle of Man in recent years. Groups have included Zurich, Axa, Barclays, HSBC, as well as Honda.Since 2004, the Isle of Man Conference Bureau has won 21 conferences with an estimated 6,500 delegates spending a minimum of 16,800 bed-nights, boosting the Manx economy by £2.5m.
Is the association market big for the Isle of Man?
Associations are a real growth market for us - we recently held two Rotary District conferences and have had interest from three other districts since. We also hosted 1,500 members of the Mother's Union in 2004, and we will host the Royal British Legion conference again in 2010 after an absence of more than 20 years. It is a market that we feel confident we will be able to start building repeat business with as organisers and delegates will want to return.
How has access improved?
The Isle of Man is serviced year round by an array of sea and air services.
We have year-round ferries from Liverpool and Heysham (near Lancaster) and direct flights from 16 airports in the UK and Ireland. Sea crossings take as little as two-and-a-half hours and flights no longer than an hour.
It gives delegates more time to settle in and sample some genuine Manx hospitality.
Are there any new venues for groups?
A new venue not to be overlooked is the Sound Restaurant, located on the southern tip of the island. It offers panoramic views across the sea and the small island, the Calf of Man. On the hotel front, a 120-room, four-star property with conference facilities will open in either 2009 or 2010 on the Douglas Quayside.
Finally, what is the Isle of Man's best kept C&I secret?
I would say that the natural beauty of the island, as well as the variety and sheer ease and convenience of getting around. The island is a unique and inspiring destination with dozens of attractions and activities, which can be incorporated into an event.
First opened in 1913, and following a £15m refit in 2004, this sophisticated Edwardian building is now owned by the Department of Tourism.
The Royal Hall is the showpiece space, an octagonal theatre that can hold up to 1,360 delegates. There are two function suites - the Promenade (for up to 200 delegates) and the Colonnade (up to 150) - and the 154-seater Broadway Cinema. The stylish buildings are surrounded by landscaped gardens big enough to house marquees.
Tel: 01624 694544 - Web: www.villagaiety.com
KING WILLIAM'S COLLEGE
This famous school dates back to 1833 and located in quiet Castletown, close to the airport. The school now welcomes conference and corporate guests, and the facilities have been refined, including new lighting and sound systems, for example, to cater for meetings and presentations. The Walker Library is a boardroom with capacity for 30, while the Bragg Theatre is a lecture hall that can seat 80. The Big School is a versatile space for up to 200 people depending on layout.
Tel: 01624 820470 - Web: www.kwc.sch.im
MOUNT MURRAY HOTEL AND COUNTRY CLUB
Set in 200 acres of prime Manx countryside, the four-star Mount Murray has 90 rooms and can host up to 300 delegates. Besides its four meeting spaces, perhaps the biggest draw is the lush 18-hole golf course, with views that the locals say stretch all the way to England. There's also squash, a pool and aerobics studio for the more energetic. Murray's Restaurant has luxurious decor, and can host private receptions for up to 200.
Tel: 01624 661111 - Web: www.mountmurray.com
HILTON HOTEL AND CASINO
This recently refurbished 136-room four-star property overlooks Douglas Bay from an enviable central, waterfront location. Events enjoy the technical and logistical support you would expect from an international brand, and the two main meeting rooms, the Shearwater and the Cushag, can host 200 and 300 delegates respectively. The Shearwater is also divisible into three smaller spaces, while the Derby is a 20-capacity boardroom. Other facilities include two restaurants, three bars and an on-site casino.
Tel: 01624 682775 - Web: www.hilton.com/isleofman
Having been painstakingly restored to recapture the splendour of one of the few remaining late Victorian theatres, the Gaiety is a favourite for conferences wishing to attend scheduled performances.
Acclaimed as the finest theatre of its type in the country, the Gaiety also offers a meeting suite, the Matcham, which can hold 30 for small private receptions. Located just next to the Villa Marina complex, the theatre is dramatic, colourful and a true original.
Tel: 01624 694544 - Web: www.villagaiety.com
The Sefton is an impressive Victorian four-star hotel built around the calming oasis of its own water garden. The 100-room property has retained its character while adding modern touches such as free wi-fi access throughout the whole property. The restaurant this year won a rosette, and the hotel specialises in conferences for ten to 160 delegates. There are two Garden Rooms that can be used together or separately (80 delegates each), and a lecture theatre for up to 25.
Tel: 01624 645501 - Web: www.seftonhotel.co.im
ISLE OF MAN DIRECTORY
Department of Tourism and Leisure, St Andrew's House, Finch Road, Douglas, Isle of Man IM1 2PX
Contact: Richard Cuthbert
Tel: 01624 686888
Flight duration: 1 hour