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September 17, 2006

Destinations: Home comforts

Last week, we discussed the merits of taking your event overseas. This week we look at the flip-side: why should you keep your event in the UK?  

Many of those involved in corporate travel in the late 1980s and early 1990s will remember it with a certain dewy-eyed fondness, and you’ll hear tales abounding of far-flung locations travelled with global brands. But with the involvement of procurement departments, the influence of the perceived dangers of global travel and an increasing awareness of the corporate carbon footprint, companies are now looking to take advantage of the local options open to them.

You don’t have to go flying halfway round the world to find great venues that match your requirements. Contacting any of the regional or city-based convention bureaus around the country will allow you to find the venue that best suits your need, simply and easily. No problems with language, currency, time difference, complex logistics… you name it.

“There are obviously fewer cost implications in choosing a nearby venue and most  rely upon and welcome this bread-and-butter business,” says Diane Green of the NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau. Green also believes that you don’t need to travel overseas to have the benefits of physically removing delegates from their usual routine and work pressures, as there are plenty of venues that take you away from it all within a short journey of most companies.

Andrew Finley, of venue finder VenueCheck, agrees: “There are terrific venues of every sort nearby to most companies, so at the local country club, golf club or hotel you can get some stunning options. Local venues are a good choice with regard to budget if you are looking to save on traveling expense. Another reason for buying local would be to underline any CSR [corporate social responsibility] messages you have with the local community, or if you are looking to stress the location of your business.”

However, the reality is that for most companies, how far you choose to travel for your event is likely to boil down to the budget, size and duration of an event: internal staff meetings lend themselves particularly well to local venues; some larger ones may fare better in more distant locations.

Karen Cooper, of marketing agency the JJ Group, sees it more as a question of practicality. “If your event is not necessarily to impress or reward, but maybe centred more on imparting information, then a venue close to home is a practical choice. Location is key to response rates and if your audience is local or in-country then a venue closer to home allows for the audience to justify attending. You need to ask the question: Will your audience be able to justify the cost and time of going to an exotic destination?

“Using a local venue is logistically more convenient and if your objectives don’t dictate that a far-flung destination is required, then a venue closer to home is a practical and obvious choice,” Cooper continues. “Choosing a venue close to home can more often than not have a positive impact on costs compared to using a far-flung venue. If the delegates need to pay to attend the event, then cost is going to be an integral part of their decision-making process, potentially impacting upon response rates. Keeping costs down can make the event easier for the delegate to justify attending.”

Carly Mitchell, sales and marketing director for caterers Tapenade, believes there are more upbeat reasons for stayng at home: “Much depends on budget really, but we would always recommend doing an event closer to home really well, using a fabulous location with top quality catering rather than stretching the budget with an overseas event and having to compromise on the content. A conference, the way its run and its content says so much about the company that’s running it, so the importance of the quality of the event cannot be underestimated.”

Mitchell sums up a string of benefits for keeping your event local:

  • Local means easy access, so you’d be more likely to get a full turn out.
  • Delegates would have to take less time out of their working week. This is a major bonus when it comes to not disrupting the day-to-day running of your company.
  • It is, of course, easier to visit the venue in advance if it’s local to check it out and plan how the event is going to work, get to know the venue managers, etc.
  • Minimising the time and expense incurred by delegates when travelling to that venue may also negate or minimise the cost implications associated with overnight accommodation, and food and beverages.

In short, don’t be fooled into thinking that you’re selling yourself short by keeping your event local, even if your budget would allow you to take your delegates further afield. Staying close to home will certainly keep the costs down and make it easier and more likely for people to attend. It will also allow you to put more money into catering and entertaining to make the event really special for your delegates. And don't forget the CSR implications – going local means investing in your community and also reduces your company's carbon footprint.

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