Top Conference Destination
Top UK cities, London, Birmingham and Edinburgh, dominate this year's poll with the capital voted the C&IT readers' favourite conference destination for the third year running. Buoyed by the opening of Wembley Stadium, the Dome's reincarnation as the O2 and the 2012 Olympics, London's grip on the top slot looks unassailable. But the crown lies uneasy as Dubai - up two places to third slot - continues its inexorable C&I development. This year's rising stars are Athens and Edinburgh, which make their top five debuts, taking fourth and fifth place respectively. Meanwhile Birmingham, boasting the ever popular ICC, is sitting pretty in second position.
Top Incentive Destination
Affordable flights, a favourable rate of currency and luxurious venues have helped Rome conquer the incentives market, robbing London and Dubai of the coveted top spot. The stylish Italian capital, famed for its Spanish Steps, Vatican and boutiques, has leapt from sixth place last year to numero uno, while Dubai slips to second place and London to third. But a year is a short time in this market. London and Dubai's aggressive expansion of hotel, venue and transport infrastructure could see both of them competing for the gold standard next year. New York and Barcelona complete the line up, with our transatlantic cousin in at fourth place - with Barcelona in fifth.
Top UK Incentive Hotel
Once again luxurious country retreat Chewton Glen is the number one favourite - but only just. The Grove is snapping at Chewton Glen's heels, only a vote behind and up one from third in 2006. An enviable range of incentives, including golf, shooting, fishing and falconry has consolidated Gleneagles' position in the top five - it comes in third this year - while the allure of an award-winning spa has helped Four Seasons Hampshire retain its grip on the fourth slot. In at five comes one of London's classiest hotels, The Ritz - proving that not all of us want wellies and fresh air.
Top Overseas Incentive Hotel
Reinforcing Rome's domination of the incentive destination market, the city's Hilton Cavalieri, with its Roman steam rooms and Olympic-size pool, takes pole position in the international incentive hotel category. Narrowly missing out on the top spot is the Burj Al Arab, billed as the world's only seven-star hotel, which comes in at second. The Jumeirah Group can console itself with news that its other leading light, Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, has kept hold of fourth slot. The biggest shake-up is Hotel Arts, Barcelona - slipping from the top in 2006 to third this year. Meanwhile, Banyan Tree Phuket romps into fifth place.
Top UK Conference Hotel
Leaders come and go and The Grove, this category's big hitter for two years, is no exception. Despite quick links to London, it slides to fourth slot, while Celtic Manor, which last took the top spot in 2005, reclaims the crown - buoyed by the success of its relatively new 1,100m2 exhibition space. Building on its top-flight performance as an incentive hotel, Chewton Glen has proved your second-favourite conference hotel once again, thanks to its spectacular New Forest setting. The other rural gem is Gleneagles, boasting three golf courses and stunning Scottish vistas, which holds on to third position.
Top Overseas Conference Hotel
Only one of last year's top-five properties gets a look in this time around. No prizes for guessing that it's the Hotel Arts, Barcelona, which reiterates its status as your favourite international conference hotel. Hilton Prague, offering one of Europe's largest conference spaces for up to 1,500 delegates, moves into second place. Meanwhile, Dubai is clearly flexing its C&I muscle - the Jumeirah Group's Burj Al Arab Dubai and Jumeirah Beach Hotel take third and fifth place respectively. The fourth spot goes to rising star Intercontinental Athens. Offering 40 meeting spaces and easy access from Athens International Airport, this is a name to watch out for.
Top UK Purpose-Built Venue
Despite London being the top conference destination, your favourite purpose-built venues are a long way from the capital. Birmingham ICC won a resounding show of support, taking gold for the second consecutive year, and receiving almost twice the votes of its nearest rival, the Edinburgh International Convention Centre. That said, the EICC moves up one rung to second place, demonstrating it's a force to be reckoned with. The Brewery, one of London's hippest new venues, is a new name to the top five. It takes third place, ahead of Excel London, which falls from second to fourth spot - a position it shares with the new O2 and the QEII Conference Centre.
Top International Purpose-Built Venue
Maybe it's the first-class facilities, maybe it's the easy access, or perhaps it's the lure of Monaco's sparkling nightlife. Whatever the reason, Grimaldi Forum tops the podium for the second year. Located on Monaco's fabulous Larvotto seafront and in walking distance of 2,500 hotel rooms, Grimaldi Forum plays host to some of Europe's key conferences including the Petroleum Industry Convention and UN Environment Programme - not bad for a relatively new entrant to the C&I sector. Our other big hitter is Copenhagen's Bella Center, which pole-vaults into second position after being seeded outside the top ten in 2006.
What a difference a year makes. None of last year's famous five makes an appearance in 2007. Instead Vista Events becomes your DMC of choice - replacing LSO International. Launched 14 years ago, Vista Events' services span conferences to exhibitions and road shows. It scored over three times the votes of its closest competitors, Arabian Adventures, Destinations Unlimited and Green Route, which all share second place.
Best UK Venue Committed To Sustainability
Competition for this brand new category came from all corners of the C&I community, including rural hotels, international purpose-built venues and chic London bars. But there can only be one winner and this year it's Excel London. It's easy to see why you're impressed. Managing director Vanessa Cotton has significantly ramped up the East London venue's green credentials. Initiatives include an environmental penalty scheme to discourage clients from using non-recyclable products and a long-term commitment to make Excel carbon-neutral. Perhaps the most surprising scheme, however, is a 14-metre wormery, which converts waste food from events into useful compost.
Best UK Hotel For Catering
Some of the biggest names jostled for this coveted title but there was only one clear winner - The Grove, whose culinary kudos has continued to whet appetites since it opened in September 2003. Voters applauded its trio of restaurants, Colette's, the Stables and the Glasshouse, citing high-quality ingredients, friendly service and stimulating environments. Food is sourced locally and menus adapted to exploit seasonal produce. Mosaic of guinea fowl and quail, herb roasted lamb, Tahitian vanilla jelly and ice caramel sunflower pairfait are a mere hors d'oeuvre of the property's award-winning fare.
Best UK Venue For Catering
Twice Michelin-starred head chef Erling Rugsten and his talented team have elevated award-winning City venue The Brewery to the pinnacle of this catering category. From award dinners and product launches to Christmas parties and meetings, the Brewery has consistently demonstrated a dynamic approach to conference and event catering. This is illustrated by the fact it scored twice the votes of its nearest rivals in this category. The Brewery's innovative approach to catering is ably illustrated by its new 'city living' concept, which focuses on nutrition and wellbeing. This option includes 'survival boxes', featuring food designed to boost delegates' energy levels and stimulate creative thinking.
Best Hotel for Service Standards
Good service is priceless. Chewton Glen trail-blazes our new UK Hotel Service Standards category, which shouldn't come as a surprise, as you also voted it the top UK Incentive Hotel. A hair's breadth behind is the ultra luxurious Knightsbridge five-star The Berkeley. Then comes The Grove, proving a firm favourite with organisers once again by taking third place. Gleneagles, another stalwart of C&IT's reader poll, flies the flag for Scottish hospitality, coming in at a highly respectable fourth place. The final top five slot goes to Marriott's classically elegant Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel in Holborn, London.
Best Venue for Service Standards
"The answer is yes ... what's the question?" It's this maxim that has won The Brewery first prize in this category and secured the East London venue a portfolio of blue-chip clients including the FA, Coca-Cola, the Kerrang! Awards and the Mojo Awards. Otherwise that's it for London. And Birmingham ICC - your top favourite UK purpose-built venue - illustrates careful attention to customer care by winning second place. Meanwhile Warwick Conferences, which has embarked on a £3m upgrade of its conference and meeting spaces, comes in at third.
Best Transport Provider
Reports of lost air luggage and Heathrow hold-ups have failed to dim your affection for British Airways - the nation's carrier takes gold in this category. Meanwhile the train is clearly taking the strain out of continental travel. Eurostar comes in second - proving that rail is a real competitor for the Paris and Brussels routes. Luxury carrier Emirates lands in third place with BMI close behind its tail fin. Fifth place goes to Virgin, which has significantly increased its long-haul destinations this year to include far-flung hotspots like Mauritius.
TOP CONFERENCE DESTINATION
TOP INCENTIVE DESTINATION
4. New York
TOP INCENTIVE HOTEL
1. Chewton Glen
2. The Grove
4. Four Seasons Hampshire
5. The Ritz
TOP OVERSEAS INCENTIVE HOTEL
1. Hilton Rome Cavalieri
2. Burj Al Arab, Dubai
3. Hotel Arts, Barcelona
4. Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai
5. Banyan Tree Phuket
TOP CONFERENCE HOTEL IN UK
1. Celtic Manor
2. Chewton Glen
4. The Grove
5. The Lowry
TOP OVERSEAS CONFERENCE HOTEL
1. Hotel Arts, Barcelona
2. Hilton Prague
3. Burj Al Arab Dubai
4. Intercontinental Athens
5. Jumeirah Beach Hotel
BEST VENUE FINDER? ...
Whatever happened to Best Venue Finder?
Unfortunately, due to block voting from one particular agency, we've removed this category from the Reader Poll for 2007.