Magazine article Marketing

Rooms with a View

Magazine article Marketing

Rooms with a View

Article excerpt

Whether looking for a small homely venue or a glitzy hi-tech palace, London has a room for hire to suit all.

London has literally hundreds of new venues for smaller conferences to satisfy growing demand as businesses trim gatherings to economic scales. "We have more venues than ever before," says Miranda Wilson, head of UK Sales at the London Tourist Board and Convention Bureau. Over 1800 rooms are on its books and it runs a free advisory service.

For the newest outlook, head east to Docklands. To a casual observer, the area is far from reeling under the bankruptcy axe. On the contrary a fresh dynamism is apparent in London Docklands Development Corporation headquarters where optimism is based on access plans coming to fruition, while more to follow is promised.

"In May the Limehouse Link tunnel opens, cutting the driving time from the City to the Isle of Dogs to around ten minutes," says Stuart Neil, Docklands visits and meetings coordinator. City Airport is at last on the brink of taking-off. Berlin, Brussels and Belfast are three destinations out of a dozen to be served within the coming weeks. The Airport has a sophisticated Business and Conference Centre for up to 50 delegates. Docklands Light Railway has been updated and the RiverBus appears to have financial stability. So routes by air, bus, rail, road and river are reliable, as a new leaflet explains.

To celebrate, the first Venue Directory has been published entitled "London Docklands: the right side of London for an unrivalled meetings location". Lest readers imagine a sterile development site, Neil took this journalist on a walk past skyscrapers softened by sculptures and waterside landscaping.

Clare and David Hunter, plus baby Oliver, live aboard their Thames sailing barge Scone, which can host 28 delegates boardroom style, or relaxing in deep chairs. Guests can follow discussions with home-made meals. A larger Thames barge, Lady Gwynfred, has room for 50.

Their competition is the Leven Is Strijd, a classic Dutch barge whose name means "life is a struggle". Now retired from sea she can host meetings with up to 20 participants seated around a birds eye maple table -- miles, it seems, from office blocks. Costs depend on the catering required.

Companies looking for business-like premises might try the Harbour Conference Centre where the smallest training rooms cost from |pounds~32 a day (and rise to |pounds~700 for the large Harbour Room). This dedicated centre, behind blue-tinted glass, has a working atmosphere with equipment for hire and lunches from an economic |pounds~6 a head for groups of up to 50.

Alternatively, the Britannia International Hotel, with panel-and-chandelier period style interior, has a first floor devoted to conferences and banqueting. Several interlinked seminar rooms, some with balconies and waterfront views, are for compact meetings. "This was our alternative to Amsterdam," says Roel Wortman, instigator of the Hewlett Packard European training meeting at this Isle of Dogs four-star hotel. His comment underlines the improvement in transport, making Docklands a realistic option for international gatherings.

Cabot Hall, within the Canary Wharf development, is a towering hall, 45ft high, and has hosted the CBI European Banquet. For meetings with up to 80 delegates, there are syndicate rooms with built-in screens, AV equipment and simultaneous interpretation on request. A list of approved caterers is supplied.

Off the Isle of Dogs is the crypt of All Saints Church built in 1823. Its four basement rooms are of varying sizes and the whole suite costs |pounds~795 per day. Fees, says the Rev Eddie Carden, are ploughed into community work.

Recession-troubled Tobacco Dock -- the restored Georgian warehouse complex in Wapping -- has accommodation including boardroom facilities for ten to 50 delegates. This location is marketing itself particularly for promotions and photo shoots. …

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