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May 20, 2009

THE PARTY LINE:Should you plan a Christmas do in a downturn?

Many companies will be faced with a big dilemma this Christmas. Should they thank staff for their dedication after a difficult year with a party, or save the money and put off any festive celebrations? Those businesses that do decide the motivational and staff retention benefits outweigh the costs are likely to get a pleasant, says Ian Whiteling.

Companies looking to reward their staff for all their hard work during a tough year should start planning now, according to Best Parties Ever managing director Tim Stevens.

The UK party specialist is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and has entertained more than 500,000 guests at its themed Christmas events since it launched in 1999. To mark the occasion and acknowledging the pressure companies are under to keep spending to a minimum, Best Parties Ever has announced a number of exclusive offers, along with the new themes and dates at 14 locations.

Boosting motivation levels
While companies may be looking to tighten purse strings in times of economic downturn, Stevens believes it is important to look after staff and ensure motivation levels are as high as possible.

“We understand it is a tough economic climate for everyone at the moment with cut backs and redundancies a daily reality,” he says. “In light of this, it is now more important than ever for companies to reward staff for their hard work and loyalty and boost team morale. A Christmas party is a great way to do this and for the company to come together as a whole regardless of age or hierarchy.”

Wyboston Lakes, a popular events venue situated north of London on the Cambridgeshire/Bedfordshire border, is also rolling out its festive offering well in advance, and offering packages that reflect the state of the UK economy.

“Mindful of the current economic climate, we wanted to introduce a range of Christmas packages that suited all tastes and budgets,” explains operations director Olivier Six.

“We are offering excellent, value-for-money packages without compromising our standards or the cheer of the festive season. As always, companies will be able to book either a small table or, if numbers are large enough, enjoy exclusive use of one of our venues.”

Fair deal: Best Parties Ever's famous dodgems

Working together
Although ahead of the game – not to mention brave – in terms of shouting about their Christmas offerings, Best Parties Ever and Wyboston Lakes are likely to be typical of organisers and venues this year. Many will be keen to show companies that they are willing to work with them to provide an affordable, entertaining and motivating festive experience for employees.

After all, the year will probably be the most stressful ever for many workers, what with fears over business closures and redundancies, the latter of which has meant many have been working much harder. In fact, it could be argued that rewarding staff with a party this Christmas could be one of the most important events a company could hold. Particularly, as it’s vital to not only motivate and show appreciation for the sterling efforts put in across a difficult year, but also to retain key people.

Budget flexibility
A look at this year’s rates and the flexibility of packages also suggests that many companies will find it more affordable than they may have thought.

“It does not have to be expensive,” Best Parties’ Stevens is understandably keen to stress. “Our parties, for example, start from as little as £34.50 per person. When you match that against an average salary, a company’s spend on a Christmas party broadly equates to about three hours pay per employee.”
This year Best Parties has announced five new themes: Party at the Pyramids, Wild in Africa, Red Hot in Rio, One Night in Bangkok and Cirque Noel – as well as four further locations in Billericay, Southampton, Milton Keynes and Manchester to add to its portfolio.

“Ticket prices have been frozen from 2008 for all parties, to offer further accessibility for companies,” says Stevens, “and guests will receive half-price photographs and tokens for the famous Best Parties Ever dodgems.” 

Staying power
And it looks as if the approach is paying of so far for Best Parties.

“Some Christmas party companies have had to scale back this year, but bookings for our parties are brisk, so we are optimistic,” says Stevens. “While the recession looks set to continue for the foreseeable future, we hold the belief that come autumn, companies will feel the need to boost morale and reward staff.”

For Wyboston Lakes, too, flexibility is the key. “With different packages to choose from, bookers can opt for an intimate private dinner for 20 to a grand scale company party for up to 350 revellers,” explains Six. “Christmas party packages, such as Bring a Party to a Party, also allow smaller bookings to join in with other companies and celebrate the festivities in ‘big party’ style. Prices start from £32.50 per person.”

Particularly impressive about Wyboston, is that the venue is offering a bargain room rate to allow revellers to stay overnight after a party for just £55 a room for two people. So, wherever you’re based, challenge your local venues and organisers to make sure they are going that extra mile for you in these tough times. You could also take advantage of lower January rates by holding a party after Christmas rather than before.

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