Conference centre threat to hotel role

Dedicated residential conference consortiums could pose a competitive risk to hotel-based conference operators, according to a report published by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Hospitality and Leisure Group. Hospitality Directions Europe reported a 45% growth in the UK residential conference sector over the past five years. As of 2002 there were 48 operators – including Hayley Conference Centres, Initial Style and Sundial – up from 33 in 1997. The report ranked hotels, academic venues and residential centres by residential and meeting room capacity. Although the report showed hotels offer the most capacity, specialist conference centres have entered the battle for market share, with their popularity attributed to their high standard of service and facilities. “The trend towards smaller conferences of shorter duration means strategically located residential conference centres are well placed for growth when spending picks up,” said Robert Milburn, PWC partner responsible for UK hospitality and leisure services. Research manager Liz Hall added: “Although specialised residential conference centres still account for a small proportion of conference facilities, they have grown in the past five years. Operators expect growth of around 20% over the next five years.” Hilton International account director, incentives, Sarah Leeson argued the hotel group did not consider the centres to be a competitive risk. “Our hotels provide a different product to these centres, and we are full-service providers with flexible products and services within this market,” she said.

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