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A historic hotel in the heart of Warwickshire has struck gold after scooping a trio of prestigious national awards.

Coombe Abbey Hotel has been officially recognised at the M&IT Awards 2017, which celebrates talent within the events industry.

The Brinklow-based 12th century venue picked up not one, but two Golds and one Silver award in a glittering ceremony held at Battersea Evolution in London.

Coombe Abbey secured Gold in the Best UK Unusual Venue category, beating the likes of Alton Towers Resort and Brighton Dome for the top prize.

But it didn’t stop there, as the hotel also won Gold in the Best Value for Money Conference Venue section and a Silver for Best Conferencing and Banqueting Staff.

Although they did not actually win the category, the independently-owned venue was also shortlisted in the illustrious Best UK Hotel section.

Coombe Abbey went head-to-head with iconic and exclusive hotels including Chewton Glen and Cliveden Hotels, the Midland Hotel in Manchester and The Belfry which has recently undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment. The eventual winner was the luxurious five-star Celtic Manor Hotel and Resort.

Ron Terry, general manager of Coombe Abbey, said that it was a phenomenal achievement for an independently-owned hotel in the Midlands to compete against major players within the meeting and incentive travel industry.

“To have been merely shortlisted for the awards was a major achievement,” said Ron. “But to have walked away with two Golds and one Silver is more than anyone at the hotel could have ever wished for.

“These awards are a testament to the hard work and dedication that all staff put in the whole year round and I would like to say a huge thank you to each one of them.”

Coombe Abbey was one of the biggest overall winners of the night and host, presenter Eamonn Holmes, even pointed out that the hotel was on a roll.

What has made winning even sweeter is the fact that Coombe Abbey was nominated for the exact same three titles in 2016, eventually coming out with a Silver and a Bronze.

Ron added: “We were so pleased with the Silver and Bronze last year, but here at Coombe Abbey we always strive for perfection, so we wanted to make sure that we improved this year.

“Now we cannot rest on our laurels and will be working harder than ever to keep up these Gold standards that have been set for us.”

Organised by trade and events magazine M&IT, a total of 19 trophies were presented at the ceremony recognising a number of industry firms from venues to airlines.

For further information about Coombe Abbey Hotel, events that it hosts or to book a room visit

QHotels’ Event Profs Panel joined forces with the HBAA in its latest roundtable event, to discuss the industry’s big issues and outline potential solutions for the future. 

The event, which was held in February at QHotels’ Chesford Grange, brought the HBAA’s Executive Director Juliet Price together with young event professionals on the QHotels panel, to start addressing the concerns high on their agenda, raised in previous panel roundtables.

The result was a series of potential solutions for event organisations, professionals and business leaders to consider, which QHotels hopes will now help shape the future of events by encouraging discussion, debate and involvement across the industry.

The issues addressed fell into three main categories: tackling industry perceptions, attracting new talent and nurturing and developing event professionals.

The solutions highlighted by the panel included:

  • Lobbying for a professional body with ‘Chartered Institute’ status
  • Highlighting role models with a spotlight on transferrable skills
  • Creating a careers hub for the events industry
  • Banishing unpaid internships & improving placement schemes
  • Improving the perception of apprenticeships


QHotels is now calling for organisations and individuals to join in the discussion and debate, as the group addresses each category throughout the year and explores the solutions outlined in more detail.

Events professionals can get involved or offer their suggestions by emailing or tweeting @QHotels.  

QHotels’ Director of Marketing, Claire Rowland, said: “The purpose of the Event Profs Panel was to give the new generation of event professionals a voice to help shape the future of events and having the HBAA join the discussion is hugely significant in driving change.

“We are now working closely with the HBAA to discuss how we can progress these suggestions and are encouraging other industry influencers to get involved.”

Juliet Price, Executive Director of the HBAA, commented: “It’s incredibly important that as an industry we’re listening to the younger generation of professionals and doing all we can to develop our future stars.  Whilst we’re already doing a lot to address these issues and looking at ways that the HBAA can support the panel’s suggestions, we hope the findings will help industry leaders, event professionals, agencies and corporates and groups to take action too.”

Event profs with less than five years’ experience in events and interested in having their say can join the QHotels panel by emailing their contact information to

Hand Picked Hotels has exchanged contracts to acquire an architecturally splendid gothic gem, Stanbrook Abbey Hotel near Worcester - expanding the award-winning country house hotel portfolio to 20 properties.

The Grade II listed abbey, in a beautiful location close to the county town of Worcester and at the foot of the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire, is being purchased as a going concern from Clarenco, a hotel and venues group, part of its Amazing Venues brand. The deal is expected to complete mid-March.

The acquisition is part of a strategic expansion by Hand Picked Hotels, created by former lawyer turned hotelier Julia Hands, to boost the Hand Picked presence in the heart of England - in the West Midlands and close to the Cotswolds. Stanbrook Abbey Hotel is a 10 minute drive from junction 7 of the M5 and 50 minutes by road to Birmingham International airport and railway station.

The gothic style abbey, once inhabited by Benedictine nuns, with later additions by the sons of Augustus Pugin, including a church, cloisters and towers, is set in a walled estate of 26 acres. Within the grounds, there are manicured gardens, a flourishing orchard, a lake and a 100ft bell tower overlooking the River Severn.

The hotel has 56 double bedrooms and a wedding and events suite remodelled from the abbey’s original presbytery. There are 17 function rooms, including historic wine cellars, games rooms, banqueting halls and a garden pavilion, providing distinctive settings for weddings, private parties and corporate events.

Julia Hands, who formed Hand Picked Hotels in 2001 from a collection of hotels purchased with her husband, financier Guy Hands, said: “The acquisition of Stanbrook Abbey Hotel is a delightful addition to our portfolio of country house hotels with fascinating histories and stunning architecture. It also fits with our planned growth to acquire hotels in strong locations across the UK, close to good transport links to major cities.”

Suzanne Hurndall, CEO, Clarenco, said: “Clarenco is delighted to have found a purchaser for Stanbrook Abbey Hotel, who not only has a proven track record in the industry, but is as excited and passionate about the Hotel and its opportunities as we have been. After purchasing the Abbey in 2010 and overseeing the largest of our development projects to date, we can see that Stanbrook Abbey Hotel is the perfect fit for the Hand Picked portfolio. We want to thank the whole team at Stanbrook Abbey for all their hard work and dedication and wish them and the Hand Picked group every success for the future. This transaction leaves Clarenco able to focus on its remaining properties, developing and expanding them to enable them achieve their full potential over the coming years.”

Warwick Conferences, the collection of meeting venues based on the University of Warwick campus, took its new, fully serviced catering van on the road to London recently to showcase its award-winning food offer to event bookers.

As part of the London road trip, the van took pride of place on the Warwick Conferences stand at International Confex, which took place 1 – 2 March at Olympia London. This was the first time an exhibiting conference venue had utilised a van as the focal point of their stand at the show. As well as offering complimentary tea, coffees, brownies and champagne, the team were on-hand to provide visitors with a flavour of the new approach to food now on offer as part of Warwick Conferences’ refreshed and improved offering.

In addition to this, it was an opportunity to speak with visitors and potential clients about how the van can add a unique element to all kinds of events that are taking place up and down the country.

Rachael Bartlett, Head of Sales and Marketing at Warwick Conferences, said: “This was the first time we had utilised the van for a specific industry event and we are delighted with the response we had. The van proved to be a hit at Confex with visitors keen to hear about the new investment and how it could be used as part of their upcoming events, as well our new approach to food and service delivery. We’ve already received over £200k worth of enquiries with considerable interest generated in both the van and our newest venue, The Slate.”

The catering van also made an appearance at Battersea Evolution on the evening of Friday 3 March as part of the M&IT Awards. Situated outside the entrance, the van was a welcome sight providing complimentary bacon rolls and tea, coffee and water to attendees from 10pm – 2am as they left the venue following the awards event.

Rachael adds: “Our activation at the M&IT Awards was the perfect opportunity for us to raise awareness of not just the fact that the van can be hired for events, but that we can also now go directly to clients to give them a flavour of the Warwick Conferences experience and our award-winning catering. In recent weeks we have visited clients including ArrangeMY Group in Worcester and Capita in Swindon.

“The inclusion of the van as part of our stand at Confex and the activation at the M&IT awards have both gone a long way in raising awareness of our new offering, as well as generating genuine excitement around what we can make possible at Warwick Conferences.” 



Rockliffe Hall, in Hurworth, County Durham, has been named as a finalist in the Business Tourism category at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence.

The winners of this prestigious accolade will be announced at the awards ceremony on Monday 24th April at the Hilton Waldorf, London.

Working collaboratively with the industry, VisitEngland’s Awards for Excellence celebrate the best in English tourism. VisitEngland Chief Executive Sally Balcombe said: “The Awards shine a spotlight on an industry driven by the highest-calibre people and organisations who deliver unforgettable experiences for visitors, raising the profile of England as a world-class destination and driving the economic benefits of tourism across the regions.”

“Awards for Excellence finalists exemplify outstanding tourism talent and distinguished businesses throughout England. We received over 600 truly impressive applications this year and there’s absolutely no doubt that the finalists represent the very best in the industry. I’d like to congratulate all finalists and wish them the very best of luck.”

Eamonn Elliott, Chief Executive at Rockliffe Hall, said: “We are thrilled to be short-listed for this top award. We won the North East Tourism Awards’ Business Tourism accolade a few months ago which allowed us to be put forward for this national award. To be short-listed is a credit to everyone at Rockliffe – we know we offer the ultimate experience for our guests, whether they’re visiting us for business or pleasure – and we’re delighted to have this recognised at such a top level.”

Contact Rockliffe Hall on 01325 729999 or visit

Warwick Conferences is celebrating another year of success at the Meetings & Incentive Travel (M&IT) Awards 2017, after picking up the Silver award for Best Academic Venue.

The collection of meeting venues based on the University of Warwick campus was awarded the Silver award in a category which also featured Imago, Oxford University, Robinson College Cambridge, The Moller Centre and the University of Manchester Conferences and Venues.

Warwick Conferences was also shortlisted in the Best UK Management Training Centre and Best Value for Money Conference Venue categories.

The awards are solely voted for by event organisers and readers of M&IT magazine with this year’s ceremony taking place at Battersea Evolution and 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 proud to have won the Silver award for Best Academic Venue at this year’s M&IT Awards. We have enjoyed considerable success at the M&IT Awards over the years and put this down to the incredible hard work and dedication of our venue team, as well as the high-quality product we are able to offer to our customers.

“It is an honour to receive this award, especially as it is voted for by our customers who have first-hand experience of our facilities. Our entire team is committed to going above and beyond in the service they offer, so it is particularly rewarding to know that our customers recognise and appreciate this service.

“We are looking forward to another successful year ahead with our customers now able to reap the rewards of our recent investment in our newest venue The Slate, and the creation of a range of feature rooms at Scarman, which have been designed to encourage creativity and innovation among delegates.”

The awards just keep on flowing for the Cheltenham based boutique event management and hotel booking agency. For the third year running, First Choice Conference & Events have been awarded in the category of Best Intermediary Agency (fewer than 40 employees) at The M&IT Awards 2017 in London on the 3rd March. 

Attracting more than 1200 industry professionals – twice as big as any other awards evening in the event industry calendar and celebrating its 30th anniversary - the awards brings together all sectors of the industry to measure market reaction in rewarding excellence of service. Uniquely fair, the strength of the M&IT Industry Awards is in its democratic process. No other award ceremony in the meetings industry offers a result driven purely by user votes alone.

Managing Director Penny Banyard said;

“I am proud of the team to receive Silver for Best Intermediary Agency 2017 (fewer than 40 employees). For the third year we have received this prestigious award and in an age when customer service is more and more demanding, it’s fantastic to be appreciated and supported by our clients. The team work hard to deliver a highly bespoke and personalised service and this award demonstrates our commitment to our clients”

Director Dan Sweet received the award at Battersea Evolution, London where the glittering black-tie occasion took place and hosted by Eamonn Holmes, added;

“It’s such a glamorous and highly regarded evening, where you’re surrounded by your industry peers and colleagues, so it makes winning the award all the more exhilarating.  We were lucky enough to bring nearly all the team with us this year so we were able to celebrate all our hard work together, it was an outstanding night!”

First Choice Conference and Events prides itself on its consistent quality of service and ability to save its clients time and money. The company provides personalised specialist venue finding and event management solutions.

To experience First Choice Conference & Events award winning service visit or call the team on 01242 243475

A brand leader in Europe

At 2017 IHIF (International Hotel Investment Forum) in Berlin, Rezidor reconfirms its leading position in Europe with Radisson Blu, the largest upscale hotel brand featuring 186 hotels with almost 45,000 rooms in operation, as per the latest ranking published by MKG Hospitality-On.

"We are proud of the journey of our industry-leading brand. Iconic, stylish and sophisticated, Radisson Blu is a multi-award-winning, full service, upper-upscale brand delivering genuine and relevant guest experiences with a distinctive Yes I Can! attitude. Such a leading position confirms that the Radisson Blu brand, and Rezidor, are a most compelling solution to the needs of both guests and investment partners. We are confident to eventually lead the upper-upscale segment with Radisson Blu, outside of Europe, too," said Elie Younes, Executive Vice President & Chief Development Officer of Rezidor.

A leading player in Poland

"With an average GDP growth of 3.6 percent in 2015 and the rise of domestic tourism, Poland has become an important economic player in Europe and a focus country for Rezidor. Radisson Blu is the largest upscale brand in Poland also, amongst several other European countries," said Younes. "With a portfolio of 13 hotels already, we will strengthen our Polish portfolio together with our national and regional partners, and to actively support the country's growing travel & tourism sector", added Younes.

The newly signed Radisson Blu Hotel, Sopot is Rezidor's fourth resort in Poland, following Zakopane, Swinoujscie and Szklarska Poreba. Sopot is one of the country's most famous towns and is extremely fashionable, particularly in the summer months, as a top destination seaside resort town in the heart of Poland's Tricity Metropole (Gdansk, Gdynia, Sopot).

The Radisson Blu Hotel, Sopot will be located just 250m away from the Baltic Sea Beaches and provide easy access to the Gdansk Business District as well as Gdansk's Old Town. This business and resort hotel, expected to open by Q1 2019, will feature an all-day restaurant, a lobby bar, more than 900m² of extensive conference and meeting areas, parking and a 900m² spa wellness area with a gym and indoor pool.

The project is being developed with Grupa Inwestycyjna Hossa S.A.; a Gdynia-based design and architectural firm with 25 years of experience in real estate.

The Rezidor Hotel Group's Polish portfolio spreads from Gdansk to Krakow, Warsaw, Szczecin, Zakopane, Swinoujscie, Szklarska Poreba, Poznán, and Wroclaw.

QHotels was awarded a top industry accolade in the 2017 M&IT awards, scooping the coveted gold award for Best Venue Group Meeting Product.

The group, which owns 26 four-star hotels across the UK, was commended for its continued investment into meeting and events facilities across the group and commitment to consistently delivering outstanding service, at the glittering ceremony on Friday 3 March.

The awards, organised by Meetings & Incentive Travel magazine, celebrate the best venues, suppliers and agencies in the industry, with winners voted for by event industry professionals.

Chris Gaines, Sales Director of QHotels, said: "The prestigious M&IT awards recognise the very best in the industry and are especially important to us because they're voted for by event professionals themselves, allowing us to understand how we're performing in the eyes of our event guests.

"We're constantly listening and looking at how we can improve our offering to meet the changing needs of event professionals, allowing our teams to deliver our Inspired by You promise. It's our team's dedication to customers that has moved QHotels from silver to gold in the Best Meeting Product category, and for that I'd like to thank them.

"Over the past year we've made significant investments, including improving facilities such as high-speed, accessible Wi-Fi across the group, and have also launched a number new products, including our Meet Off Peak package, designed with customer insight and demand in mind.

"As well as listening to our customers, our QHotels Event Professionals Panel, which brings young event profs together to discuss the industry's big issues, has enhanced our understanding of what matters to industry bookers."

QHotels was also named No.1 Large Group for the sixth consecutive year in BDRC's 2016 VenueVerdict Awards, as the brand that conference and events bookers are most likely to recommend. 

Technology investment puts Prestige further ahead of competitors

Stockport-based hotel booking agency Prestige has invested in a new, cloud-based CRM tool which could revolutionise the customer experience for procurement, bookers and travellers alike.

The new system puts the customer relationship at the heart of Prestige’s business by creating multiple unique digital communities for each client organisation. And the agency is breaking down traditional barriers by giving suppliers access to those clients.

In addition to performing conventional systems tasks including bookings, data analysis and compliance tracking, each portal will enable client, agency and suppliers to co-operatively tailor travel services to the personal requirements of travelling employees as well as their employers. Procurement will have total visibility, in real-time, of organisation-wide activity by division, cost centre, booker or traveller. Prestige’s sales team will enjoy the same visibility, even on the move, so account management and customer service delivery becomes faster, slicker and more integrated.

“Our clients’ private and business lives are now inter-twined, so we need a system that enables us to meet those needs by delivering a more personalised service” says Prestige MD Erica Livermore.

“Smaller agencies have often shied away from investing in technology, preferring to rely on providing a personal service. We are turning that argument on its head by using technology to enhance our service. It’s all part of our mission to make it easy for clients and suppliers alike to do business with us.”

Prestige have appointed cloud computing consultancy Mint to support the implementation of the new system. MintCRM are delighted to be working with Prestige on the implementation of a new solution for the business” says director Geoff Young.  “This new all-encompassing solution will help propel Prestige to the very forefront of the UK’s hotel reservations and event booking sector, and will ensure that the business has a robust platform on which to continue to service their clients’ needs.”


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