Happy Birthday, Conference Winchester!

Conference Winchester, the dynamic consortium of meeting venues from the Winchester District, celebrated the first birthday of its free venue-finding service last week with an anniversary meeting at Lainston House attended by over 30 representatives from the group’s member venues.

Working with the tourism unit at Winchester City Council, the group aims to raise awareness of Winchester as a unique place to do business, with its alluring combination of heritage settings and state-of-the-art conference venues, ranging from purpose-built conference centres and deluxe hotels to museums and historic colleges.

Over a glass of bubbly and slice of birthday cake, the group reflected on its numerous achievements since the launch of its ‘one stop’ venue-finding service for corporate customers, which is managed by preferred agency Right Location. During the past year, Conference Winchester members have supported the introduction of the service with a busy programme of marketing activities, including familiarisation visits for corporate buyers and business press, attendance at local business exhibitions and ‘induction’ training for more than 60 front-of-house staff to increase business referrals to the venue-finding desk. And it seems that the hard work is paying off: in its first year of operation, Conference Winchester has received almost £250,000 worth of enquiries.

Keen to build on this success, member venues used the networking opportunity presented by the anniversary meeting to discuss tactics for future promotional activities. Raising the awareness of the venue-finding service was a big priority for all members present, as was finding ways of directing more potential buyers to Conference Winchester’s dedicated website www.conferencewinchester.org.uk.

As acting chair Sarah Hudson, who is Area Sales Manager of the Marwell Hotel, explains, Conference Winchester has identified a unique selling point which will help the group achieve these goals, "Whilst we are very serious about promoting our venue-finding service, we think that the range of more light-hearted corporate activities that can be included as part of a conference package in the Winchester District is the key to creating a competitive edge for Conference Winchester. Between its member venues, the group can provide everything from canon-firing at Fort Nelson to sunset safaris at Marwell Zoological Park, offering conference organisers a truly distinctive touch to ensure their events go with a swing."

Diane Slater, Managing Director of Right Location, said, "Many corporate organisers are on the look-out for the more unusual, especially to round off an event: The wealth of possibilities that Winchester has to offer ensures that we can find the perfect add-on to suit all budgets. With our extensive knowledge of all the venues and the activities, our free venue-finding service really does take all the hard work out of event-planning for the busy event organiser"

She added, "To have achieved nearly a quarter of a million pounds worth of enquiries in our first year proves that Conference Winchester is already having a significant impact on business tourism in the District."

Local businesses who have not yet tried out the Conference Winchester ‘one stop shop’ are invited to give it a go on tel 0870 744 7022 or e-mail enquiries@conferencewinchester.org.uk. For a preview of the range of venues and activities offered by the consortium, click on www.conferencewinchester.org.uk