As I write this I am sat on the 1903 from Paddington to Reading following a successful day of venue visits throughout the Big Smoke. It never ceases to amaze me just how much of a difference in price a 24 minute train journey can make. Just yesterday I was at the beautiful Trunkwell House in the rolling Berkshire countryside talking DDR’s of £35 and today at a number of London hotels where you won’t get much change from £70. Now I won’t name names but will say that the London venues seen on this occasion certainly lacked, compared with many of the places I’ve visited in the Home Counties, in terms of personality, service and value for money. It’s no great mystery why we pay so much in the capital where land is at a premium and business is booming. We can look to hotel bedroom occupancy rates and average room rates to highlight the differences between town & country;
London (BDO) - 88.9% @ £143.79
Provinces (HostStats) - 68.6% @ £69.42
With land shortages in London meaning that very few ‘new’ hotels and venues are being created prices are sure to only head one way.
When dealing with clients who have tight budgets one of the first recommendations we make is to head to a venue outside London. Of course this isn’t always suitable, especially for shorter events such as 1-day meetings where travel costs may be prohibitive, but for residential conferences or events where delegates are coming from across the UK and not just within London it should be a serious consideration.
Budget - You really won’t get much change from £220 for a 24hr rate at a middle of the road 4-star hotel. Head no more than 20miles outside the capital and this can drop to £130.
Space - While there are some truly mammoth venues in London, Novotel West London & Park Plaza Westminster Bridge for example, the countryside plays host to numerous large venues.
Delegates - Worth considering where the delegates will be coming from. If they are traveling to event from across the UK then yes London does have great transport links but so do many other places. It’s also worth noting that suburban or countryside venues will have good parking facilities unlike their city counterparts.
Tranquility - Bring some calm and cool to your conference that only the countryside can provide. Nothing enhances contemplation like a view over rollings hills and farms.
Travel - If you’re coming from inside London then why not look to hire a coach to take delegates to your country retreat. A 50 seater coach will cost around £250 each way (within around 40miles), or £10 per person return. You’ll more than make up for the extra cost in the venue savings.