Sue Robb of 4Children talks to Julie Laughton and Alison Britton from the Department for Education about the role of childminders in delivering the 30 hours free entitlement.
Wales – where the world meets
If you can combine stunning sceneries, venue suitability and accessibility as well as value for money you begin to realise why Wales proves such an attractive option to the business visits and events market. Latest figures from the UK Tourism Survey show that Wales hosted over 2.3 million overnight stays in 2008 and companies spent over £220 million while staying in the country.
Eirlys Thomas, head of marketing networks at Visit Wales, said: “Wales is fast becoming a thriving business hub. Over the last few years we have seen significant growth in business tourism at our venues. As a result, more and more dedicated venues are springing up and existing venues are opening up to the corporate market to meet the demand.
“Wales is often described as a hidden gem in the conferencing market. It has a diverse range of options available to delegates including dedicated conference venues, coastal locations, cosmopolitan city venues, stately homes and a wealth of outdoor incentive options. This diversity of offer means we can tailor make unique packages to suit specific individual requirements.
“Currently more and more conference organisers are looking for locations that take them out of the big cities but still offer great value for money. Wales often exceeds expectations by offering competitive rates and diversity of product that enables the conference organiser’s pound to be stretched even further without compromising on quality.”
This year south Wales will be hosting the world’s third largest sporting event, the Ryder Cup 2010. 1 October will mark the start of the prestigious event, which will be hosted on the purpose-built Twenty Ten Course at The Celtic Manor Resort, Newport. There will be two hospitality facilities available for companies wishing to attend The 2010 Ryder Cup. Private chalets for 30 to 50 guests are available or there is a restaurant where corporates can purchase tables of ten. In terms of the wider corporate package, delegates will now be able to play the TwentyTen course at The Celtic Manor Resort and utilise the TwentyTen Club House that can cater for 96 delegates and over looks the 18th hole.
Moving west to the country’s capital, Cardiff, delegates can expect to see a number of new venues and initiatives. Firstly, the Wyndham Hotel Group and development company Bayscape Limited, based in Cardiff, have signed a 25-year hotel management agreement for the £60m Wyndham Cardiff in Cardiff Bay. Work has begun on the development of the 32-storey hotel, which is expected to open in 2013 with construction due to start at the end of 2010. Once completed, it will be the tallest building in Wales.
The Capital is offering a number of new incentive and team building options, the latest of which is the newly opened Cardiff International White Water Centre. Located in the up and coming International Sports Village, the white water centre is the UK’s first on-demand white water rafting facility. The facility can offer delegates team-building packages for up to 60 delegates and activities range from canoeing, kayaking and white water rafting. Delegates can take part in a full day or a half day course choosing either flat water or white water activities or a mixture of both. There is also the option for the centre to link up with other water sport providers to offer delegates the full water sport experience. The centre also provides a meeting room for 60 delegates with on-site catering.
Staying in Cardiff Bay, the tides are turning at the St David’s Hotel & Spa. The hotel’s Tides Restaurant is undergoing its first full refurbishment since the hotel’s opening in 1999. Wayne Tapscott, executive head chef at the hotel, said: “The restaurant will be focusing on producing the very best dining experience using fresh, seasonal local produce where possible.”
Signature dishes will include Plat de Fruit de Mer, Lobster with a Welsh twist, as well as a Beef Wellington made from Welsh Black beef. St David’s Hotel has four private meeting and conference rooms with waterside views with a maximum capacity of 270 theatre style.
North Wales is rich in venues and incentive choices. Delegates are getting involved with some monkey business in Dolgellau at the new Go-Ape hire-wire forest adventure centre. The new centre at Coed-y Brenin gives delegates the opportunity to experience a high wire forest adventure using ladders, walkways, swings, bridges and tunnels made of rope, wood and wire in the forest canopy. The course can be hired exclusively and can cater for up to 250 delegates at any one time. It also has sister sites in south Wales at Margam Park and Pembray.
Sport is always on the agenda for Wales and north Wales has just announced its latest sporting venture, Eirias Park. The £6.5m venue, due to be completed in 2011, is located in Colwyn Bay and will offer delegates the chance to combine meetings with team building, outdoor events space and corporate hospitality. The venue will be available for exclusive hire, and will comprise a 3,000 seat sports stadium with nine boxes, an indoor events and training centre including indoor rugby pitch, a boating lake and an outdoor event space similar in size to a standard Olympic athletics track.
In addition, the venue will be adding a dedicated conference facility which will include 11 individual meeting rooms, and an indoor space which can hold up to 3,000 delegates. In-house catering will be provided and all rooms will have state-of the-art facilities and Wi-Fi access. The site is also able to host outdoor sporting and music events, with a stadium capacity of 6,000 and an outdoor capacity of 35,000.
The north is also embracing its Victorian heritage. After a recent £5 million investment, 2010 sees a new destination for delegates in north Wales – a Victorian village. Nant Gwrtheyrn is a refurbished Victorian village located in a 250 acre site that offers conference organisers the chance to hold their events in a range of meeting places. The village is located in a private valley overlooking its own beach.
The recent investment has provided new conference facilities in a newly refurbished building for up to 350 delegates theatre style and 150 banquet style with the option of creating multi-room meetings. Accommodation is available for 80 delegates which is located in the refurbished Victorian quarry cottages within the village site and the newly refurbished Plas Education centre.
Another recent renovation in north Wales has been at the Quay Hotel and Spa, Deganwy. The Quay has just unveiled its newly refurbished conference and meeting rooms which have been moved from the ground floor to the first floor creating space for 140 extra delegates. The largest of its conference rooms, the Castle Suite, can hold a maximum of 240 delegates theatre style and can also be partitioned into two rooms. The Tegid and Vyrnwy conference rooms can hold 80 and 60 delegates theatre style respectively. The venue also offers the option of a number of breakout rooms.
Situated in 24 acres on the edge of the Pembrokeshire National Park, the newly refurbished The Grove, Narberth, is an 18th century country house offering views across the Preseli Hills and is within walking distance from the market town of Narberth. The Grove has three rooms available to the corporate market. Its largest room, the Garden Room, has its own private terrace and can cater for a maximum of 22 delegates theatre style. The panelled room can hold a maximum of 16 delegates theatre style and the study can hold 10 delegates theatre style. All food at The Grove is locally sourced wherever possible and is prepared by Nigel Marraige, a two Michelin star chef who was previously head-chef at Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons.
Wales is said to have more castles than it does Starbucks and 2010 sees more historic buildings opening their doors to the corporate market. Slebech Park, set in 600 acres of Pembrokeshire National Coast Parkland, is a newly renovated historic country residence. After a £4million refurbishment the 18th century, grade II listed building boasts extensive gardens, woodland trails and a 12th century chapel as well as state of the art conference and meeting facilities for the corporate market.
The main corporate facilitates are housed in the venue’s coach house where a maximum of 100 delegates can be accommodated theatre style. There is also the harbor room, a semi permanent structure which can hold up to 200 delegates banquet style. Other options include the stable, a number of syndicate rooms, or the terrace of the main building which offers unique water’s edge location. The venue also hosts the Angela Gray Cookery School which offers a variety of different cookery and food tasting courses for the corporate market that can be tailored to each client’s specifications.
Relaxation is key consideration at Pembrokeshire’s first destination spa hotel, the St Brides Hotel and Spa. The hotel has just launched its exclusive range of natural marine spa products by Dolmor. St Brides is the only hotel in the UK to use these products and its spa guests receive the numerous benefits of the seaweeds that are harvested from the beaches surrounding the hotel. The venue is also offering lucky conference goers the option to book a spa treatment instead of the usual tea and coffee in the morning or afternoon breaks. The treatments can also be taken at the end of a long day to help delegates unwind. Each treatment lasts 25 minutes and options available include eye and lip treatments facials and scalp massages.
The Middle Ground
Surrounded by the Brecon Beacons, mid Wales has a diverse range of venues set in the rolling Welsh countryside. The Metropole Hotel is set within the historic spa town of Llandrindod Wells and has been run by the Baird-Murray family for over 100 years. The hotel contains 120 en-suite rooms and can host up to 300 delegates in its meeting rooms.
For delegates wanting to take a walk on the wild side and make the most of the natural surroundings of the Brecon Beacons national park, Call of the Wild offers all inclusive outdoor training and learning programmes to corporate groups. It also offers corporate events, conference break out activities and activities for private parties. It provides uniquely tailored management training, team building and corporate events. Corporates can take advantage of range of activities including, canoeing, paintballing, surfing, climbing and abseiling.
For a secluded venue that offers delegates the chance to escape it all, Lake Vyrnwy Hotel near Builth Wells, is located on the hillsides of the Berwyn Mountain range, just across the Shropshire border in Powys. It is ideal if conference organisers wish to combine breathtaking views with dedicated conference facilities and team building activities. The hotel provides panoramic views to Snowdonia, a dramatic backdrop of craggy mountains, wild moorland, forests and waterfalls. The venue offers a range of meeting rooms and can cater for up to 200 delegates theatre style. Its spa has a spa pool with views down the length of the lake, an aromatherapy steam room, a Rasul mud suite, along with sauna and treatment rooms.
Closer than you think
Accessibility is a key consideration when conference organisers decide where to host their event. Cardiff International Airport is 12 miles from the city centre and there are flights nationally to Edinburgh, Belfast, Glasgow and Newcastle and internationally to Amsterdam, Münich, Geneva, and Paris, Toulouse, Palma, Murcia and Sofia. This is in addition to the major international connections that are available via Amsterdam.
North Wales is well served by Manchester Airport bringing in the transatlantic market of Washington and Chicago, while Mid Wales is easily accessible from Birmingham Airport. London is just two hours away from Cardiff by train and three hours by road, while five services operate across the Irish Sea, connecting Wales to Ireland
Visit Wales has endorsed the Meeting Industry Association’s AIM scheme. AIM is recognised assurance that a venue or industry supplier operates within quality, customer service and best practice criteria, and meetings and event venues in Wales are being encouraged to join.
As part of its endorsement of AIM, Visit Wales will provide support in a number of areas including displaying details of the scheme on its tourism trade website, featuring the logo within the range of star quality printed material, where appropriate from 2011, and include a search capability of AIM accredited venues on the new Visit Wales website which is due to go live in May 2010.
The business tourism desk of Visit Wales helps event organisers get the most out of Wales by offering free and impartial advice. In addition, there is a wide range of resources available to help organisers in planning an event in Wales including a conference planner and incentive guide.