Survival of the fittest
The Lifeboat College in Poole offers a water-based activity beyond the norm. Its Sea Survival Experience is a half-day team-building session that takes place in the training pool used by lifeboat crews that can simulate waves and stormy weather, complete with thunder and lightning. Microsoft and LV Insurance are among those to have used the facility. "It was an experience not to be forgotten," says Alyson Grimley, assistant to the group risk director at LV Insurance. "The staff were very instructive and I think we all learned something about survival, as well as a lot about ourselves and our colleagues." The Lifeboat College also offers conference facilities, a 100-seat restaurant and 60 en-suite guestrooms.
AFC Bournemouth has started the current season with a bang, and a trip to the club's Dean Court home is a refreshing alternative to the costly allure of corporate hospitality in the Premier League. The club offers a number of packages, including a three-course meal and executive seating in the Main Stand from £55. On a more active note, the Bournemouth region has several high-quality golf courses, two of the most prominent being Dudsbury and Queens Park. Organisers may also be interested to know that Bournemouth University has a range of sporting facilities for hire, including a picturesque cricket ground and climbing wall.
Tapping into one of the industry's key motivational tools, the Hotel du Vin & Bistro Poole, a short hop along the coast from Bournemouth, offers wine, whisky, cider and beer-tasting programmes for groups. The property has a La Roche tasting table for up to 12, and can provide the services of a sommelier for wine events. If groups are still thirsty after that, there's more to come. "We'll be offering cocktail classes from January," says business development manager Kelly Scott. "And we can arrange all sorts of things if we're given enough notice - groups in the past have been able to prepare their own Crepes Suzette."
Located a little further along the coast from Bournemouth in the other direction, Chewton Glen needs little introduction. The 58-room country house - recently voted best UK Incentive Hotel in C&IT's inaugural Hot List - is well equipped for upmarket incentives, and can offer everything from croquet tutorials and Champagne receptions, to cookery demonstrations to quad-biking. The hotel's clients include Mouton Rothschild and Westland Transmissions. Back towards town, the Captain's Club Hotel is a 29-room boutique with a reputation for high-profile guests - Mick Jagger and Girls Aloud among them. It has its own 34ft motor cruiser, the Nauti Girl, and also offers two private dining suites overlooking the Stour.
Bournemouth's location makes sea-based activities an obvious incentive choice, and there are countless options. Local company Eventscape has handled events for clients including Daimler Chrysler and Fujitsu, and offers a full range of experiences, from powerboat hospitality days and company yacht races to party boats and kayakking. "Half-day blasts on RIB boats are popular too," says operations director Louise Davis. "They're great for post-conference energisers." For land-lubbers, meanwhile, other alternatives include drumming workshops and beach Olympics. As the town recently topped a Virgin Money Travel Insurance poll as the UK's most holiday-friendly destination, post-event extensions will have their own appeal for delegates.