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April 16, 2008

Unusual venues:Why are they growing in popularity

As companies seek to differentiate their events from others, they are searching out more and more unusual alternatives. Finding a venue that’s “out of the ordinary” is an increasingly popular trend, and one that’s driven not just by event buyers, but also by the venues themselves.

“Venues are becoming more astute at promoting their uniqueness as a unique selling point,” says Charlotte Reeves, director of corporate relations at Somerset House and chairman of Unique Venues of London (UVL). “Promoting what makes them unique helps buyers to align their brand values more easily with that of the venue.”     


Sky's the limit: Kensington Roof Gardens possibly
one of London's most stunning venues

The X-Factor
Reeves believes that buyers are looking for something unique that will give their event that added wow factor and make the event stand out from the crowd; they are becoming increasingly adventurous and looking beyond an obvious choice. “The cache provided by the choice of such a venue ensures high guest attendance resulting in a successful ROI for the event organiser,” she explains. “By inherently becoming the backdrop for the event, venues of this nature save event organisers time and money by reducing the need for expensive dressing. Buyers are looking for venues to work for them on all levels, rather than the other way around.”


Caroline Harms, events manager at The Roof Gardens in Kensington, agrees. “Nowadays people frequent conferences and events at more and more unique venues, the organisers of which are generally always trying to better the last event they put on to keep attendees and sponsors happy and impressed with the event and service provided – always going that one step further to grow interest," she says. "This comes down to the high expectations of organisers and sponsors looking to offer the best quality service in the most interesting of venues.”

Harms continues: “Brands that may not have chosen a special venue to launch their product before, for example, are realising that a unique event space can create the first impressions which clients and prospective clients build on. Therefore, a special event at a special venue can aid the all important building blocks of opinion and choice making for the future.”


Eye of the tiger: holding your event at
London Zoo certainly has the wow factor

Hogging the limelight
She also believes that for those who have “been there and done that”, unusual venues offer that extra special something that impresses and can put the brand hosting the event into the limelight where it may not have been previously.

According to research by the British Association of Conference Destinations (BACD), so-called unusual venues counted for 11% of all conferences and events staged in 2005 – the figures for 2006 are not yet available. But, a survey of member of UVL in 2006 buyers, highlighted that increasing numbers are looking to unique and unusual venues to hold their events. “In 2006, 52 UVL venues hosted a total of 17,262 events,” says Reeves. “The Meetings Industry Association’s UK Conference Market Survey showed bookings for unique venues doubled in 2006 with more than 17% of Association Organisers choosing a one-off venue for their event, compared to only 8% in 2005. Corporate Buyers are also following the trend with bookings rising from 9% in 2005 to 26% in 2006. The BDRC (Business Development Research Consultants) UK Meetings and Market Survey 2006 found almost half of all corporate organisers booked an event at a unique or unusual venue in the previous 12 months, a sign of the incremental growth unique venues have contributed to the industry.”

However, Tony Rogers, chief executive of the BACD feels the term ‘unusual venue’ is somewhat ill-defined. “It’s used to describe a very wide range of venues (sometimes described as ‘unique’ venues) which do not fit into the more common venue categories. Unusual options include sporting venues (for example, football and rugby stadia, racecourses, golf clubs), cultural and entertainment venues (museums, theatres, television studios, stately homes), tourist attractions (theme parks, historical sites, castles, heritage centres), transport venues (ferries, steam trains, canal barges), even a lighthouse or two!  In the British  Isles, around one-fifth of the 3,500 venues being promoted to the conference market can be classified as unusual venues.”

In London alone, you can hold your event in venues ranging from St Paul's Cathedral and London Zoo. “But,” says Rogers, “I believe that, at the end of the day, the professional organiser will not be swayed to use an unusual venue simply because it is different.  They will need to be convinced that the event can be staged successfully, taking account of any limitations that the unusual venue might have.”

Have you held an event in a unique/unusual venue? If so where, and did it have the desired effect on those attending?

Alternatively, as a venue, what makes you unique and why should companies be looking to hold their event with you. Also, why should you qualify to be listed on EVENTS:review in the 10 most unique/unusual venues in then UK?


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