Go (South) West
The south west of England has long been a popular destination for holidaymakers; a veritable smorgasbord of sandy beaches, rugged coastline, rolling hills, and quaint villages. While the region remains a family favourite, it also boasts a welcome selection of MICE offerings.
Plymouth is Britain’s Ocean City, offering the picturesque benefits of a city on the sea, while also delivering an impressive corporate location.
Nestled between the sea and the moors at the heart of Devon and Cornwall, Plymouth is a thriving city, with an outstanding quality of life enjoyed by many, with its many marinas, waterfront bars, historic buildings and strong modernist architecture.
The city is home to one of the largest music, entertainment and conference facilities in the South West, Plymouth Pavilions. Boasting a capacity of 2,500 for conferences, and hosting banquets for up to 700.
GMB Union are regular visitors to Plymouth and chose Pavilions to host their 100th Congress in 2017. Steve Short, GMB executive officer, said: “GMB Congress is a key event for us. Consequently the union’s executive council takes great care to find venues that are suitable for the event. Plymouth ticks a lot of boxes as a destination and we always receive positive feedback from delegates who stay in the city. The Plymouth Pavilions’ location makes it easy to get to and, as a purpose built venue, it has the range of flexible space needed to accommodate a varied programme and accommodate all delegates, including those with access needs.”
Plymouth is now three hours from London by rail, 55 minutes flight from London City to Exeter Airport, and Plymouth’s International ferry port links the city with Roscoff and Santander.
Bristol has been quietly developing a stronger offer for international conferences. The city works collaboratively with its assets. Connectivity and services to event organisers available through Bristol Airport and special rate fares for conference delegates through GWR for those travelling by rail make the city an appealing prospect.
Bristol is the home of mysterious artist Banksy, and street art has become a popular sight in the city and at its venues. Mercure Grand Hotel has been transformed with influences of street art and the Bristol Marriott City Centre Hotel has an urban roof terrace. There are even street art tours and corporate experiences.
Bristol was recently named as a UNESCO City of Film. It hosts a number of prestigious film events such as Encounters and Wildscreen and is home to Watershed, one of the UK’s most influential media centres. It is also home to Aardman Animations where you can participate in model-making teambuilding sessions with the multi-award winning studio, responsible for Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep.
A fifth consecutive year of profit growth for the UK hotel market has left accommodation providers in Bristol cautiously optimistic about enjoying a prosperous 2018.
Occupancy rates in the greater Bristol area for 2017 have been 79%, while August saw the best weekend performance from Bristol hotels ever recorded, according to Destination Bristol.
Major events such as the International Balloon Fiesta, Bristol Harbour Festival, the Downs Music Festival, concerts at the Lloyds Ampitheatre, World Cup cricket and Glastonbury Festival all generated demand for accommodation in and around the city.
Sandy Park is Exeter’s award-winning conference, banqueting and events centre and home to 2017 Aviva Premiership champions, the Exeter Chiefs.
The venue has the flexibility to host everything from large exhibition events to small meetings, all within easy reach of the cathedral city of Exeter and the stunning scenery of the Exe Estuary, East Devon and beyond. Situated by junction 30 of the M5 and only 10 minutes from Exeter International Airport, the venue claims to be one of the South West’s most accessible Conference Centres.
Sandy Park, Exeter
Sandy Park has a variety of versatile and dynamic spaces, including the Exeter Suite which has hosted a number of notable events, including exhibitions, award shows, charity gala evenings and Exeter Rugby Club’s annual End of Season Dinner.
The Chiefs, Estuary and Baxter suites offer unrivalled views of the stadium and the East Devon countryside. For smaller meetings, the Seminar Suites are ideal and all have moveable walls.
Torquay sits proudly on the English Riviera and is home to the Riviera International Conference Centre, which offers 10 meeting rooms, while its main conference hall can hold up to 1,500 delegates in theatre layout. Breakout rooms can deal with up to 400.
The venue has held numerous high-profile events, including the 7th UNESCO International Conference on Geoparks, Federation of Small Businesses, National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs, National Federation of Retail Newsagents, and Society of British Neurological Surgeons.
Located in Somerset, Butlin’s Minehead resort conveniently sits next to Exmoor National Park, and is only 60 miles from Bristol.
With capacity for 5,648 delegates, Minehead’s Skyline Pavilion is a good venue for an exhibition, product launch or concert. Alternatively, Centre Stage has a capacity of 2,800 and is good for award ceremonies, gala dinners or big conferences. For smaller events or conferences, the Theatre lends itself well to company presentations, breakout sessions and networking events. Offering a vibrant setting for any event, Reds is a versatile venue with space for up to 1,500 delegates in a theatre-style setting. It’s also home to its own stage and two bars. Butlin’s M3 Airdomes are also available at Minehead.
Blueskies at Butlin’s, Minehead
Butlin’s has announced plans for a number of new Seaside Lodges at its Minehead resort in 2018. The new developments – available to book from Easter 2018 – are a result of Butlin’s recent £10m investment in accommodation across its three resorts, and demonstrates the company’s ongoing commitment to developing quality accommodation at competitive prices. Butlin’s new Blueskies accommodation is now open year-round for delegate hire.
Bovey Castle in Dartmoor National Park is a unique venue in the region. A variety of meetings spaces are on offer which can hold up to 120 delegates.
The venue is not short on teambuilding activities, with an 18-hole golf course, spa, and off road driving experience just the tip of the iceberg.
Bovey Castle is just a 40-minute drive from Exeter, which is also the nearest railway station.
Eden Project, a botanical garden in Par, Cornwall is not an obvious choice for conference and meetings. Day rates start from just £20 per person, with a zip wire and garden tour two options to make your event unique.