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03/2016

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Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) have recently made a key appointment to their marketing team with the addition of Ali Butler as Digital Media Executive.

Ali brings to the team her 10 years experience in the graphic design industry working in London with large retailers including John Lewis and Laura Ashley as well as working alongside local Aberdeen transport providers.

Ali will be responsible for all design and visual elements to AECC along with a strong focus on strengthening AECC's focus on branding the city as an events destination whilst taking the current Love Aberdeen campaign and rolling it out to key companies within the region.

Digital Media Executive, Ali said, “I am very happy to be joining such a progressive and passionate team at AECC. I am looking forward to furthering the Love Aberdeen campaign and working alongside the sales team to promote not only the venue but also the region as a destination of choice for national and international events.”

PR & Marketing Manager, Leigh-Ann Kemp, said: "Ali is a fantastic and well experienced addition to the team at AECC. Her forward thinking approach and diverse knowledge of the industry is a great asset to the team and we look forward to her becoming a vital part of the marketing approach of the venue." 

MeetingRooms.com, the global marketplace that brings people and meeting space together on-demand, has announced that QHotels has made meeting spaces within its four-star hotels available for customers to book via the MeetingRooms.com online booking tool. The QHotels Group features 26 award-winning hotels located throughout the UK from Scotland to Southern England, and boasts 300 state-of-the-art conference suites and meeting rooms.

MeetingRooms.com is an online marketplace which launched globally in March, 2015 and continues to grow, now boasting over 14,000 meeting and event spaces in 130 countries around the world – including 300 cities and towns within the United Kingdom.  The marketplace matches its venue partners’ empty meeting rooms with a rapidly growing demand in real-time, enabling its customers to book professional meeting rooms online, 24/7. The online tool acts like those used to book flights, hotels and restaurant tables, avoiding the hassle of making numerous phone calls and web enquiries usually involved in securing a space. The company launched to accommodate a significant growth in small meetings, a trend brought on by the boom in entrepreneurship and widespread adoption of mobile technology and remote working.

“We are delighted to have partnered with MeetingRooms.com. This is part of our strategy to develop new channels and target new customer groups that will benefit from booking meetings at QHotels, online.

QHotels, AA Hotel Group of the Year 2014-15, an award winning Venue Verdict Large Group Meetings, Conference and Events provider, offers a Total Meetings Package across it 26 four-star hotels.

The partnership with MeetingRooms.com is one that aligns values and service offering.  We see this move as a positive step forward in a constantly changing meetings arena, where we are experiencing a more technologically driven buying environment.”

– Chris Gaines, Sales Director QHotels

The QHotels meeting room and event facilities are bolstered by free, easy-access Wi-Fi and dedicated on-site AV experts. The group’s flexible inventory caters to those seeking a small space for meetings with just a few delegates, organisations looking for a larger site to host big events or exhibitions and everyone in between. Their range of Total Meetings Package options were designed to offer an all-inclusive product, covering everything from AV to meals and an event manager, with no hidden costs.

“We’re truly excited to partner with fellow HBAA member, QHotels, to enable a better booking experience for our customers and agent partners.  Booking small meetings online is more efficient for all parties, and enables the QHotels team to access new customer channels.”

– Caleb ParkerCEO, MeetingRooms.com

Founded in 2014, MeetingRooms.com, headquartered in London, is the latest addition to the Search Office Space group of companies which was set up by property entrepreneur, Richard Smith in 1993.

For more than 20 years, the group has been a constant pioneer in the flexible workspace category, introducing a range of different search and compare services – from serviced offices (www.searchofficespace.com), virtual offices, day offices, and now meeting spaces(www.meetingrooms.com) – to support SMEs, entrepreneurs and corporates across its global portfolio of over 14,000 meeting rooms.

Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) have strengthened its sales team with a key appointment.

Charlotte Garvie, joins the AECC team as Sales Manager to actively promote the venue in the global market, maximising opportunities with agents and conference organisers. Charlotte brings a wealth of knowledge with 14 years of events experience including work with a well-known North-east events company and the Convention Bureau.

Past events that Charlotte has had a hand on include the 2007 Free at the Dee open air concert in Aberdeen, Aberdeen’s Hogmanay Street Party from 2004 to 2008, a number of high profile corporate dinners and conferences and pharmaceutical sales conferences hosting 1500 delegates over five days.

Charlotte will have a strong focus on building key relationships in her role at AECC to promote the venue as a destination of choice for events for the conference and corporate market. Having already attended CONFEC Red in Abu Dhabi Charlotte will travel globally promoting AECC attending high profile networking events and this month will travel to Dubai for the Meetings and Incentive Forum.

Sales Manager, Charlotte said, “I am very happy to be joining such a forward thinking and energetic team at a very exciting time. I look forward to building on relationships within the sector and progressing sales enquiries through to conclusion. I look forward to promoting AECC to conference agents throughout the UK and across the world.”

Director of Sales and Marketing, Louise Lonie, Said: “Charlotte is a strong addition to an already outstanding sales and marketing team at AECC. Going forward the global conference market is a large focus for the venue and building and maintaining solid relationships within this market is key.”

This year, AECC is host to high profile conferences including the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade Conference (IIFET), European Health Psychology and SPE Intelligent Energy as well as welcoming some new exhibitions; Dedicated 2 Girls and the Granite City Brick Show. Last year saw the venue awarded with the Northern Star Business Award for Excellence in Health and Safety and became the first and only conference and events venue in Scotland to be ISO 20121 certified for Event Sustainability.

An innovative new business forum, named ‘The 1905 Club’, has been launched by Newbury Racecourse to provide networking opportunities for businesses across Berkshire and the Thames Valley – a region ranked only second after London as the largest contributor to the UK economy.  The inaugural meeting of the Club, which is named after the year in which the first races were held at Newbury Racecourse, takes place on Friday 1 April and will feature former leading Jump Jockey Mick Fitzgerald who will focus on the business of success on and off the racecourse. Fitzgerald won most of the biggest races in his sport, including the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but after a career-ending injury, he has re-invented himself as a sought-after broadcaster, regularly appearing on Channel 4, BBC 5 Live and digital racing channels.

Business owners, guests and clients from a wide spectrum of businesses will be hosted by Sky’s At The Races presenter Zoey Bird, herself a successful broadcaster for almost 20 years who now lives in Newbury.  

Julian Thick, Newbury Racecourse’s Chief Executive said: “We are very proud of our history and our heritage, so the reference to our year of inception made perfect sense. However we are equally proud of our strong links to the Berkshire community and see this new concept as a way of encouraging both the established and up and coming business in the area to get together and talk business but also to have a little bit of fun together in a special environment.” 

The aim of the monthly event is to provide businesses with unrivalled networking and entertainment opportunities, giving like-minded businesses the opportunity to meet new people, strengthen business relationships and renew old acquaintances and ultimately generate business opportunities. Scheduled to coincide with first class race days, attendees will receive a two-course lunch, afternoon tea, some tips for the races, and the opportunity to hear from expert speakers and presenters. Alongside London, the Thames Valley Berkshire region is the UK’s economic powerhouse contributing over £34bn in GVA (Gross Value Added) to the economy.

Members will also be able to bring guests to 1905 Club meetings. The regular events provide an ideal opportunity for hospitality in an informal and exciting venue to entertain customers and colleagues, away from their main offices.

Newbury Racecourse Conference and Events Head of Sales, Tracy Skinner, commented: “We believe that the 1905 Club will make an important contribution to businesses large and small. Through combining business networking with exciting race days, we will offer an innovative opportunity to Berkshire businesses and further support the growth of the county’s economy. It is great to be able to have Zoey Bird and Mick Fitzgerald on board, especially as both have strong links to the county and the racecourse.”  

1905 Club membership will include an annual membership badge for Newbury Racecourse offering club members the opportunity to enjoy 29 quality racing fixtures throughout the year with access to the Members Suite, which gives wonderful views across the course and includes a private bar.

“By offering local and national businesses the opportunity to network and build stronger relationships, we hope to play a central role in supporting the economic growth of Berkshire and surrounding areas,” concluded Tracy Skinner.

For more information on the Newbury Racecourse 1905 Club please visit http://newburyracecourse.co.uk/racing/memberships/ or contact hospitality@newburyracecourse.co.uk

Warwick Conferences has released a new set of guidelines to help event bookers meet and surpass both their managers’ and delegates’ expectations.

According to the Value of Expertise report, 99% of managers expect bookers to be experts on booking events. But 70% of bookers claim this is only a small part of their job.

Busy schedules, spinning too many plates and working in silos all increase the chance of communications breaking down. This means things can be overlooked when booking an event. In fact, 93% of the bookers surveyed in the report admit to neglecting to investigate at least one key issue before choosing a venue.

Using data from the Value of Expertise report – an independent study into the relationship between expertise and success in meetings – Warwick Conferences has highlighted the crucial questions event bookers need to ask to create a successful event. 

Read the five essential questions to ask before booking an event: (http://www.warwickconferences.com/about-us/news-and-blogs/five-essential-questions-ask-booking-event)

The top questions that all event bookers need to ask are:

1.       How often do non-business guests frequent the venue?

2.       Is the technology at the event reliable, easy-to-use and compatible with the 

      managers’ laptops?

3.       How much parking availability is there at the venue?

4.       Is the Wi-Fi at the venue fast and free?

5.       Will the venue provide catering for people with special dietary requirements?

These questions act as a basis for forming active partnerships with venues, to make event booking a collaborative experience. Miscommunication and mismatched expectations can be the root causes of a bad experience – not just for the delegates, but everyone involved in organising the event.

These new guidelines from Warwick Conferences show the power of partnerships and how bookers, managers and venues can work together to break down silos and create events their delegates remember for all the right reasons.

“Asking these five crucial questions at the early stages will alleviate pressure on bookers and help remove miscommunication from the booking processes,” says Rachael Bartlett, head of sales and marketing at Warwick Conferences.

“Collaboration is essential for event booking. If delegates’ and managers’ expectations are going to be met and surpassed, bookers need to think in terms of partnerships and not transactions when working with venues.

“If booking an event is only a small part of your day-to-day job, which indeed 70% of bookers stated, partnering with the right venue means you get help creating a great delegate experience every step of the way.”

Meeting Expectations is the first of four key themes covered in the Value of Expertise report. In the coming months, Warwick Conferences will be delving more into the other three themes:

·         Respect: are businesses respecting their delegates and their training needs?

·         Connectivity: what’s all the fuss about Wi-Fi?

·         Money talks: are venues and bookers missing the mark when it comes to measuring success?

Warwick Conferences is celebrating its 10th consecutive year of Meetings & Incentive Travel (M&IT) award success, after winning Gold for Best Academic Venue for the 20th time in the awards 29 year history.
 
The collection of meeting venues – based at the University of Warwick – also picked up Bronze for Best UK Management Training Centre and were recognised as finalists in the Best UK Conference Centre and Best Conference and Banqueting Staff categories.
 
Warwick Conferences has enjoyed significant success at the M&IT Awards, which are voted for solely by event organisers and readers of M&IT magazine.
 
This year’s ceremony took place at Battersea Evolution and was attended by more than 1,000 meetings and events professionals to reward excellence in service.
 
Rachael Bartlett, head of sales and marketing at Warwick Conferences, says: “We are delighted with our achievements at this year’s M&IT Awards, especially as these awards are voted for by our customers who have first-hand experience of our facilities. It is a huge honour for us to receive these awards, and we are exceptionally proud to have been recognised amongst the best in the industry by our customers.
 
“Our success is testament to the team’s fantastic attitude and ethos of always going above and beyond what is expected of them to ensure every customer has the best possible experience when holding an event with us. It is particularly rewarding to know that our customers recognise and appreciate this service.”
 
Later this year Warwick Conferences will open its news £5.3m dedicated meeting venue on the University of Warwick campus. The venue will offer 650 square metres of contemporary and highly flexible event space.

Capita Travel and Events announces the launch of ‘Traveller First’, a unique programme encompassing added value benefits, destination knowledge and traveller security.  Traveller First aims to reduce the stress employees can experience when they’re away from home, no matter how frequently they travel.

As a result of Capita Travel and Events’ supplier relationships and buying power, Traveller First gives travellers exclusive access to a range of benefits to improve their experiences. Benefits include items such as room upgrades and fitness classes in hotels, rail station lounge access, free Wi-Fi, parking and priority check-in for air and rail and employers receive information to quantify the related savings.

Traveller First gives travellers access to the information they need to help take pressure off them when preparing for a trip and whilst on the move. Detailed itinerary access via Capita Travel and Events’ mobile app, pre-travel destination and etiquette guides and live travel disruption alerts ensure travellers are informed at every stage of their journey. Enhanced security measures, including discreet room number allocation at check-in, are provided by Traveller First hotel partners which have committed to helping travellers feel safe and secure while away from home.

Trevor Elswood, chief commercial officer at Capita Travel and Events, said: “Awareness of ‘traveller friction’, the negative impacts of business travel on travellers work and personal lives, has been on the rise over the last few years. We’re seeing more customers taking steps to tackle that and Traveller First gives travellers destination and trip knowledge, helps them feel safe and secure and provides easy access to perks that make travelling less of a burden. With improved duty of care, reduced trip expenses and recognisable value, organisations will see increases in policy compliance and visibility of travel activity and spend.”

Conference, training and leisure venue Wyboston Lakes has achieved  43rd position in this year’s The Sunday Times ‘Best Companies to work for’ List. This is the third consecutive year that Wyboston Lakes has ranked in the top 100.

“We are truly delighted to be recognised for the third consecutive year, it brings an enormous sense of pride, throughout the organisation, to be ranked within the top 100” said Mark Jones, managing director of Wyboston Lakes: “ Our employees are the best and most valuable asset we have, so it is vitally important to us to know that we have a happy and engaged team.”

As part of the process, employee feedback is rated according to a Best Companies Index (BCI) score on a scale of 1 to 1000. Michelin-style star ratings are then determined from that score, with one star acknowledged as ‘very good’, two stars as ‘outstanding’ and three stars as ‘extraordinary’.  In the results of this survey it was also revealed that 85% of employees believe the organisation is run on strong values and principles, with 79% being excited about where the organisation is going and 84% stating they feel proud to work for Wyboston Lakes.

On the basis of this employee feedback Wyboston Lakes were also awarded the two-star accreditation status, this means that the venue is considered an ‘Outstanding’ employer in terms of the way it engages with its staff.   

Chelsey Hutchinson, People and Culture Director said, “We are delighted about the score this year, we scored exactly as we did last year and just 2.2 points away from being in the top category of ‘Extraordinary’, which is incredibly encouraging for a small privately owned business.   The feedback has also been very rewarding, telling us that 82% of our employees love working for us – it makes me feel much fulfilled to work with such a great team.”

This year marks the 16th year for the Best Companies ranking.  Best Companies have been producing the Accreditation standard since 2006 to acknowledge excellence in the workplace. Accreditation is a focus on Workplace Engagement as an integral component of an organisation's success and growth. This accreditation is regarded as among the UK’s most reliable and thorough processes for assessing the merits of organisations from all sectors in terms of the way they encourage, motivate and generally engage with their employees.

Wyboston Lakes are looking for continual improvement and they will continue to offer a fantastic place to work for all of their employees.  

Flood-hit Crowne Plaza reopens after £1m refurbishment

Sir Gary Verity has reopened a landmark Leeds hotel that was devastated by the Boxing Day floods.

The Crowne Plaza, on Wellington Street, has undergone a £1m refurbishment following the damage caused by flood water that destroyed its car parks, storage facilities and vital infrastructure that kept the hotel running. The 135-bedroom hotel, which also houses seven meeting rooms, a restaurant and a full leisure centre with gym and swimming pool, had to be thoroughly deep-cleaned at a cost of £25,000. Forty-three internal doors and 150 square metres of carpet were replaced, as were the car park barriers, lifts and the hotel’s entire IT, telephone, electrical and heating systems - including the boilers and generators.The cellar and store rooms also had to be fully refurbished. An additional £50,000 was spent on general maintenance and upgrading which brought the total spent to £1m.

It is estimated that in the nine weeks the hotel has been closed, it has lost £1.2m in revenue. However, its owners are confident its reopening will bring a new lease of life to both the hotel and the city’s leisure and tourism offering. Marco Frik, General Manager of the Crowne Plaza Leeds, said: “There is no doubt that the Boxing Day floods devastated our hotel’s infrastructure and that it’s been a difficult and costly journey to get to this point. However, we have spent more than £1m getting the hotel back to full working order, and we’ve taken the opportunity to upgrade certain areas of the hotel such as the leisure centre, so the reopening is certainly worth the wait.”

Sir Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said; “I’m delighted that the Crowne Plaza has reopened after suffering such severe damage in the recent floods.  The Crowne Plaza is a central part of the Leeds business community and I encourage visitors to Leeds to book a stay at the hotel. As well as experiencing new facilities, they can show their support in helping to get flood affected businesses back on their feet.  Yorkshire is open for business and we are ready to give all of our visitors a warm Yorkshire welcome.”

Over the past two months, the Crown Plaza Leeds’ 80-strong workforce has been redeployed to other hotels across the country, with a core group held on site to man the hotel and greet any pre-booked guests who were unaware of the hotel’s closure. A team has also been based at the Express by Holiday Inn Royal Armouries to continue the hotel’s work, managing staff, existing bookings and events. 

Marco Frik, added: “Boxing day was a terrible day for us as we had to fully evacuate the building, which was a very frightening experience for our staff and customers. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my wonderful colleagues who really have gone above and beyond over the last two months to get the hotel reopened. It has been a very difficult and stressful time for us, particularly as we lost all our IT systems which meant we didn’t have access to our booking information. My staff worked tirelessly to contact as many people as possible and use social media networks to let guests know the situation the hotel was in and that we had unfortunately had to close. Our customers have been extremely patient and accommodating with us, particularly our Spirit Health club members. We are absolutely delighted to now to be at the point where we can open the doors and welcome people in once again.”

The hotel will be officially reopening for business from Tuesday 1 March, with the car park due to reopen later in the month. The leisure centre will be partly reopened while finishing touches are made to a complete refurbishment of the swimming pool area.

Swindon based travel and event agency, Planet Pursuits, have done it again with a Gold award, making it three years in a row as Best Event Agency 2016, at the Meeting and Incentive Travel industry awards (M&IT).

The awards are held each year in London and recognise the best suppliers, agencies, hotels and venues both in the UK and aboard. The company was also a finalists for Best Intermediary Agency [fewer than 40 employees].

Both categories were very strongly contested with five other nominees in each. Organised by Meetings & Incentive Travel magazine, the awards event brings together over 1200 event industry professionals and this year was hosted at the glamorous Battersea Evolution.

The awards have gained tremendous prestige over the past 27 years and aim to highlight the market’s best practices by letting the users of services vote. It is the only British voting system to do so, making it extra meaningful, as awards are voted for by the nominee’s clients. To safeguard quality, it works under the auspices of the independent Audit Bureau of Circulation. The different categories also include best hotel, best conference venue, best airline and best convention bureau.

Planet Pursuits was formed in 2000 by Director Simon Maddison, who started the company from a back store office at its farm venue Purton House, near Swindon. The agency has steadily grown to be one of the most successful UK agencies still in private hands. Last year successes included managing all of Intuit QuickBooks (the world’s number 1 accounting software) UK events and securing Emergen, UK Bodytalks and FSI as clients. Director Simon Maddison added, ‘our success is in adapting to the needs of a market and never standing still. We started as humble company running stag parties, we then moved into corporate event management and now we are a fully accredited corporate travel agent’. The company certainly hasn’t stood still and has secured over 4M worth of new business in the last 18months.

This awards comes as the agency has also announced its partnership with Advantage Travel, the UK’s largest independent travel agent group. The backing of Advantage adds travel facilities including air, rail and hire car, to its comprehensive list of event and activity services.

It’s been a fantastic few years for Planet Pursuits and long may it continue as the UK corporate events and hospitality industry goes from strength to strength, now worth some 40 billion to the UK economy.

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