New beginnings

With a host of new venues, pricing packages and refurbishments, training
course organisers have even more destinations to choose from this spring. Simon
Kent reports

Research and management centre Roffey Park started the new year with a
splash as it opened a new £6.5m purpose-built venue for conferences and
business training activities. Set in the grounds of Roffey’s 40-acre site, The
Meadow offers state–of-the-art presentation equipment across four meeting
rooms and a main seminar room with capacity for 120 people.

Val Hammond, Roffey Park’s chief executive says: "The new conference
facilities provide an inspiring base for business meetings and events of all
sizes. The rooms and equipment, setting and service combine to create a
stress-free environment, wholly conducive for meeting, thinking and developing
people and business."

Located in St Leonard’s Forest near Horsham, The Meadow is easily accessible
from London, Brighton and Gatwick airport. On paper, the new facility appears
to fulfil the principle criteria which determine a client’s decision to book a
venue: location, service and quality of environment.

However, while ensuring these factors are considered, venue providers are
becoming increasingly aware of the need to offer flexible and tailored venue
provision, enabling their customers to control the cost of removing
participants from the workplace to undergo development.

Every training provider knows these activities must have an appreciable
effect on the bottom line, and winning this value begins with managing the cost
of venue hire and nec- essary extras such as presentation equipment, course materials,
food and drink. As a result, venue providers and venue- based training
consultants are increasingly offering packages to clients across the full
range, from venue-only to all-in-one training and venue deals, offering clients
access to high-quality facilities with discounts which increase in proportion
to the volume of business ordered.

According to Becky Graveney, sales and marketing director at Initial
Conference Centres, venue and location-centred training providers are having to
adapt to a number of trends within the UK’s training function. "We are
seeing shorter courses," she says, "In the past, some of our
customers could book for a six- week course. Nowadays, people can’t be out of
the workplace for so long."

As part of their response to shorter timetables, Initial offers
all-inclusive half-day packages, the price including all AV equipment plus
unlimited tea and coffee. Graveney also notes the need for delegates to be able
to access their own company intranets and e-learning networks. At the Staverton
Park Centre in Daventry, internet access points have been provided for learners
and tutors.

High-speed wireless technology has been installed at Wyboston Lakes
Conference and Training Centre, with the arrival of a wireless local area
network on the rural site located near St Neots. For a set 24-hour rate,
visitors can hire a wireless card for their laptop and gain unlimited access to
the internet. "Technology is continually changing and we intend to be at
the forefront," says Wyboston’s business development manager Brian Payton.

Emma Boynton, business development manager of Burleigh Court Conference
Centre, says: "We believe clients require a one-stop shop where they can
get all their equipment and needs. We offer purpose-built facilities on one
site – including conference and breakout rooms, accommodation and leisure
facilities."

While unable to supply details at time of going to press, Boynton adds that
the venue will undertake a number of new initiatives this year to enhance its
ability to host conference and training activities.

Refurbishing and new builds

Hayley Conference Centres is set to open Wotton House, near Dorking, in
autumn this year. The venue offers 110 ensuite bedrooms and 40 conference and
meeting rooms, the largest with a capacity of 200. The 24-hour delegate rate
will be £225+VAT for a weekday, discounted at weekends. Jane Littlewood,
Hayley’s sales and operations director, says: "The idea of the Hayley
concept is to provide a self-contained, residential facility which is dedicated
to business users."

Initial Conference Centres has recently opened Devonport House, Greenwich,
the first and only residential training centre in London, easily accessible on
the Docklands Light Railway. With 101 bedrooms and 12 meeting rooms, Devonport
House is an early 20th century building situated close to The Cutty Sark, the
Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory.

Graveney highlights the location as being particularly inspirational, as it
offers a wealth of maritime and scientific history for trainers to use as a
backdrop to their activities. Initial has also opened a new centre at Wychwood
Park in Nantwich, Cheshire. It is continuing to enhance facilities across its
portfolio, including the addition of rope courses at Barony Castle near
Edinburgh and Wokefield Park, near Reading.

Middle Aston House, near Banbury Oxfordshire, has completed a £1.5m upgrade
of residential facilities, making all 58 bedrooms ensuite.

Peter Chubb, venue manager at Whitwell Training and Conference Centre on the
banks of Rutland Water, says his company’s 16th century Glebe Farmhouse has
been converted to bring an additional eight bedrooms to the site’s current 15
rooms.

This expansion has occurred alongside the company’s ongoing process of
refurbishment and technology upgrades.

Packages and deals

High-volume venue users should ensure they achieve discounts on their
booking. Sharon White, account manager with venue management company IBR,
explains they can help consolidate an organisation’s requirements over the year
and achieve cost benefits through negotiation with venues.

"We can examine our client’s usage of training venues and decide that
rather than using 500 different venues booked by diverse parts of the
organisation, we can identify 50 or 60 preferred locations, then negotiate the
package with the venue," she says.

Hilton Hotels is to launch a new initiative which will offer training
packages to organisations. According to Mark Taylor at Hilton Hotels, these
bespoke training solutions will be undertaken in partnership with Change
Management International, and piloted at three locations over the next six
months. Under the ‘Training Places’ banner, the scheme will offer courses
including individual development, team-building and leadership programmes.

Phil Pluck, a consultant at training organisation Brathay, notes that the
push to deliver training closer to the client has led to Brathay delivering
more than 50 per cent of its training away from its home site, Brathay Hall in
the Lake District.

Clients seeking experiential training at other locations, including
international venues, can still source this through Brathay, as it will find
and vet a suitable venue and pass the hire costs directly to the client at no
extra fee.

"Often we can find better deals, because if we find a good venue, the
chances are we will return," says Pluck. "Brathay has much more
volume use than any of our clients so we are in a better position to
negotiate."

Following its own market research, Wyboston Lakes has launched a special
weekend conference package aimed at delegates and their partners. "There
aren’t many 350- acre purpose- built sites that have the business facilities
alongside the impressive recreational activities we have here," says
Payton. With a health and fitness club, golf course, swimming pool, and water
sports activities on site, Wyboston aims to provide facilities every day,
giving delegates the option of treating their other halves to a weekend break
while they are at work.

Initial Style Conferences offers a full range of services to organisations,
from finding and managing independent venues to buying and developing dedicated
training resources.

It is also offering ‘Bonus Weeks’ where customers can book at quieter
periods and make savings of up to 25 per cent on venue costs. They can also
order courses run by Initial’s preferred training suppliers (including Video
Arts and Business Pursuits) to be run at these locations with similar price
reductions.

University challenge

Venuemasters was formed in January
2001 from the merger of two consortia – BUAC and Connect Venues. The company
promotes facilities at more than 100 university and college sites throughout
the UK – from Aberdeen to Exeter.

There is extensive ongoing investment across these properties,
including a new £105m campus at The University of Hertforshire, which will open
in September this year offering suites of syndicate rooms and a learning
resource centre for conference and training delegates.

Elsewhere, the University of Durham has launched Premier
Meetings, a per-day delegate package for a minimum of 15. This offers room
hire, basic AV equipment, three servings of refreshments and lunch for just £25
per person. There’s even an introductory offer of one free delegate for bookings
taken via the website at www.dur.ac.uk/conference_tourism/premier.htm

Venuemasters’ marketing manager David Walkden says the diversity of
properties means organisations can contact the company to search for a suitable
property according to location, size and facility requirements. "The
venues pay us to be included on the service, so we offer our venue search
facility free to customers," he explains. "There’s no bias, no fees
and no commission."

The second Venuemasters exhibition featuring representatives
from more than 65 of its venues will be held at the Business Design Centre,
Islington on 7 May 2003. For more information check out: www.venuemasters.co.uk.exhibition

Creative solutions

New on the market is Taurus Crafts,
located on the Lydney Park Estate in the Forest of Dean. Delegates can address
business matters in the morning and exercise their creative pottery and
painting skills in the afternoon. Refurbished last year, the venue offers
facilities for catered conferences of up to 50 delegates and training for 20.

Trestle Arts Base is a 100-year old chapel which has been
converted into a series of studios and meeting rooms. Situated in St Albans,
Hertfordshire, this is principally a rehearsal space for Trestle and other
theatre companies, however it is also ideal for business presentations and
workshops.

There are daily and weekly rates as well as the opportunity to
arrange courses run by the theatre company.

Venues with training facilities

Brathay Hall
Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 0HP. Tel: 015394 33041 www.brathay.org.uk

Burleigh Court Conference Centre
Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE11 3TD. Tel: 01509
211515 www.burleigh-court.co.uk

Corus Hotels
Tel: 0845 3002030 www.corushotels.com

Hayley Conference Centre
www.hayley-conf.co.uk. Site
includes links to all Hayley sites and individual phone contact for each
location. Tel 0800 731 9800 for new locations in Windsor and Dorking.

Hilton Hotels
020 7856 8334. www.hilton.co.uk

IBR Ltd
Sandford House, Catteshall Lane, Godalming, Surrey, GU7 1NG: Tel: 01483 520
770. Fax: 01483 520 771. E-mail: hannah.prowlesland@ibr.co.uk  www.ibr.co.uk

Initial Style Conferences
Tel: 0800 592250 www.initialstyle.co.uk

Lakeside Management Development
YMCA National Centre, Newby Bridge, Ulverston, Cumbria, England, LA12 8BD: Tel
015395 30224 www.lmd.org.uk

Middle Aston House
Middle Aston, Oxfordshire OX25 5PT Tel: 01869 340361 www.middleastonhouse.com

Roffey Park
The Meadow: For a brochure or to make an appointment to view the new facility
call Helen Jones on 01293 851644 or e-mail: themeadow@roffeypark.com More
details at www.roffeypark.com

Taurus Crafts
c/o Coleford Tourism Information Centre: Tel: 01592 812388

Trestle Arts Base
Russet Drive, St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL4 0JQ:  Tel: 01727 850 150. Fax: 01727 855 558.
E-mail: admin@trestle.org.uk www.trestle.org.uk

Whitwell Training and Conference Centre
Whitwell, Oakham, Rutland LE15 8BW. Tel 01780 686555 www.whitwell-learning.co.uk

Wyboston Lakes Training and Conference Centre
Great North road, Wyboston Bedforshire MK44 3AL Tel 01480 212625 www.wybostonlakes.co.uk

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