Magazine article Marketing

Heavenly Havens

Magazine article Marketing

Heavenly Havens

Article excerpt

Despite cost-cutting,

Despite cost-cutting, the Channel Islands still offer a unique continental flavour to corporate hospitality says Ann Hills

Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm and Jersey are foreign enough to be a treat - nearer to London than Manchester, and inexpensive enough to be relished even in a recession.

The message I received in the Channel Islands this year is that those who host conferences and incentives, and who rely on the UK for at least 80% of their business, are cost cutting. As far as mainlanders are concerned, sea and airfares (from less than 60 [Pounds] return) become almost marginal during a two-to three-night stay. With no VAT and low income tax, the islands are better value all round than the rest of Britian.

But while the fares are absorbed in packages, too many conference delegates have their heads down, avoiding the frills and missing the delights of the islands. Where the Queen is known as the Duke of Normandy, where Guernsey cows are gracing postage stamps this spring, where speed limits reflect the lifestyle of small towns and rural lanes, what has moved is the quality of hotels - distinctly upwards.

"Continentals appreciate our quality product, but UK companies have been slow to maximise on the merits of the place. Maybe they are not as demanding as they should be," says Iain MacFirbhisigh, director of Star Travel, an incoming destination company based on Jersey. He speaks from experience, having recently organised a three-night incentive for a German company using top class venues with wine tastings, private yacht to Sark, gastronomic dinners, a cycle tour of Jersey-the works for 580 [Pounds] per head.

On all the islands, the impression is the same - firms who come frequently fail to make the most of the opportunity because they make limited use of incentive or reward add-ons to their conferences. By contrast, less pressurised professional associations, whose members may travel with partners, can combine work and leisure.

First, Guernsey, where the premiere, five crown, conference hotel is the St Pierre Park with its suites of meeting and reception rooms, snooker room, pool, beauty salons, and tennis courts and golf course in 45 landscaped acres. Clients like Faberge have used the hotel with its 135 bedrooms.

Guernsey will attract international interest this year as I discovered on a tour around with Tim Orton, Guernsey Tourist Board's conference manager. His budget is modest compared to that of neighbouring Jersey. But Guernsey Tourist Board promotions started 1992 with a splash - it sponsored the central harbour feature at the Boat Show in London.

Working with Air UK and Guernsey Post Office, the Tourist Board is using a philatelic promotion to highlight the history, scenery and agricultural features of this island where, in July, Guernsey cattle breeders from around the world will congregate. In September the Guernsey Lily International Film and Video Competition and Festival will be launched.

Guernsey is often described as "quiet" compared with Jersey, "traditional" might be more apt. Pubs are closed on Sunday and nightlife is limited, but restaurants in St Peter Port reinforce the islands' reputation for continental cuisine at prices low to mainlanders.

Hospitality is endorsed by the Bailiwick of Guernsey. At the Beau Sejour leisure centre a separate foyer for delegates provides access to a theatre for 400, and to rooms which can hold up to 1700 people, giving a lie to the idea that Guernsey is only suitable for smaller meetings. Even better, the meeting rooms at Beau Sejour are available free. "People are surprised, but if they pay to come here we want to counteract that cost by being as flexible as possible," says Orton.

"Fortress Guernsey" is a new Tourist Board promotion to draw positive attention to the immense stock of fortifications around the island. …

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