Group Accomodation: Our Annual Review
Getting the right hotel for your group is the key to an enjoyable holiday. Stephanie Temple weighs up the options for group accommodation in the UK.
Too much choice can be a nice problem to have when it comes to choosing group accommodation; from chains and individual hotels to university accommodation, it’s hard to know when you’re making the right decision. Of course, it depends on your clients’ expectations and needs, but with new chains springing up, competitive group deals and a guest check list that just keeps getting longer, where to make that final booking can leave group organisers confused. Unfortunately, there are some well established hotel chains closing some of their doors in a bid to secure the long term future of their brands. In August, Travelodge announced it was to shed one in ten of its hotels in order to help reduce its crippling levels of debt. The company, which is the UK’s second largest budget chain after Premier Inn, employs 6,000 staff and is hoping to avoid redundancies by finding new operators for 49 of its 505 hotels.
At the other end of the scale, furniture giant IKEA is looking to open a budget ‘design’ hotel chain across Europe, believed to be at least 100 sites, which will include venues in this country.
Premier Inn is also spreading some good news by opening new hotels and providing jobs. For instance, the new £14 million Premier Inn in Glasgow opened in October and has formed a partnership with employment specialist, Working Links, with 50% of the 70 jobs being filled by participants on their Work Programme, supporting the local community. Group accommodation is changing all the time but in this feature, we hope to help group leaders make the right choice at the right prices for a holiday that will never be forgotten.
CHAIN HOTELS AND LARGER SITES
Hotel chains offer GTOs peace of mind and reassurance as you know exactly what you are getting when you book. Prices are likely to be very competitive, and rooms will be clean and equipped with all the mod cons.
We’ve probably all heard of the consortium Best Western, but as the properties are all independently-owned, each one is a little bit different. There are over 280 locations across Great Britain, ranging between three and four-star. For groups of 20 or more, special rates apply and one guest stays free of charge.
Q Hotels offers groups 21 individual four-star hotels across the UK. Many have spas, leisure clubs and also golf courses. Special group rates, free coach parking, entertainment packages and catering packages including festive parties are all part of the Q Hotels service.
There are 13 Warner Leisure Hotels across England and Wales, and they can provide a getaway for your group to remember. Every night on a Warner break has fantastic evening entertainment for groups, from comedy to big bands – holidays are there to escape from the daily hustle and bustle and that’s exactly what a Warner break promises your group. Groups large and small are welcome and, in some cases, parties may even book out the whole hotel. Groups with over 20 people will receive their own personal advisor, rewards and treats for the organisers, private dining experiences, special activities and adventures. Warner promises that your group will get the best available price when booking, with accommodation either three or four-star.
Strathmore Hotels has seven hotels, five in Scotland and two in the north of England. All bedrooms across the group are en-suite and all hotels offer at least one or more bars and restaurants. Moreover, free wi-fi internet access has recently been installed throughout all properties in the public areas. Full leisure facilities are offered at the Ben Nevis Hotel & Leisure Club in Fort William including an indoor swimming pool, gym and sauna and all hotels have private conference and meeting rooms for groups wishing to use them. Some hotels also offer a ballroom for dance groups. Group rates are available for 20 people or more as well as one free place, free porterage, and entertainment and extras such as welcome drinks if requested. Strathmore Hotels can also organise holidays on themes such as walking, dancing and bridge, and short break travelling tours taking in two or more of the hotels in the portfolio.
In the south, Daish’s owns four hotels in Bournemouth, Newquay, Torquay and on the Isle of Wight. Founded in 1979, Daish’s hotels feature central locations, large restaurants, lounges, dance floors and lifts to all floors for guests who need extra assistance. Groups can book just the hotels, hotel and return coach travel, a range of exceptional excursions to local attractions or a complete tailor-made itinerary if required. There are over 250 group holiday packages to choose from and exclusive use of one of the company’s coaches for parties of 40 or more, as well as free places for the organiser and coach driver.
TLH Resort in Torquay also offers four hotels, although all on one site. It has a blend of hotel and self-catering accommodation, leisure and entertainment for your group. The four hotels all offer something slightly different, ranging from two to three-star accommodation, and there are also four-star self-catering apartments available. For instance, the Carlton Hotel and Spa has fantastic views over Torbay for that relaxing getaway, but if you’re looking for a break that is tailored for a group with a specific interest like golf or bridge, then the Toorak Hotel may be the one to book.
The growing hotel sector in Liverpool, meanwhile, includes key international brands such as Hilton, Novotel and Ramada Plaza. New additions include Heywood House, base2stay, Days Inn Liverpool and the Hotel Indigo Liverpool. There are now over 7,000 rooms across the city centre and over 11,000 rooms across the Liverpool City Region. Key venues for group travel include the Hilton Liverpool, Britannia Adelphi Liverpool, base2stay Liverpool, Hope Street Hotel, Jurys Inn Liverpool and Novotel Liverpool Centre. The Liverpool Coach Welcome Scheme helps to maximise the overall visitor experience for groups.
Those groups looking for large sites at an affordable price should also consider Haven, which operates 35 holiday parks throughout England, Scotland and Wales. There are a range of self-catering caravan holiday homes, from great value Standard and Superior models to Deluxe, Prestige and Platinum. Special choices such as chalets, apartments, adapted caravans and half-board are also available. There is a full programme of kids’ clubs and entertainment, and facilities on site can include heated indoor and outdoor pools – many with slides, space bowls and lazy rivers – tennis courts and climbing walls. Free and ‘pay as you go’ activities are also on offer such as fencing, archery and abseiling. Group accommodation is kept as close together as possible, and indoor and outdoor venues are offered for hire as well as sports courts to train on and seated venues for presentations. A personal advisor is allocated for your group throughout the whole booking process and meal options are available, from packed lunches and take-aways to celebratory dinners.
On the Continent, meanwhile, Eurocamp is the leading tour operator for European camping holidays. From France and Italy to Switzerland and Sardinia, it offers accommodation in over 150 holiday parks across Europe. The ‘parcs’ provide facilities including pool complexes, and there is a wide choice of accommodation available, from luxury mobile homes and lodges to three-bedroom tents, with comforts ranging from air-conditioning to ensuite bathrooms. The experienced and dedicated groups team are available to assist you with all aspects of your group booking, from advice on the best sites and ferry routes to helping with any special requirements you may have. A discount of up to 25% for group bookings of four or more units of accommodation is offered, as well as additional savings for larger groups and help with transport. Eurocamp also has access to many more European ‘parcs’ and accommodation via its sister company Keycamp.
It’s not just the big players that can offer exceptional group offers – individual hotels should also be researched too as they often offer a more personal and friendly service with great rates.
The Hotel Victoria in Great Yarmouth is a family-owned, AA three-star hotel that has free coach parking on site as well as significant facilities including a swimming pool, games room and entertainment. The owners pride themselves on their group rates and packages, and with 45 ensuite rooms, this spacious hotel is ideal for an East Anglian break by the sea.
Also in Great Yarmouth, the Kensington Hotel is ideally located on the seafront just opposite the landscaped Venetian gardens. This small family business prides itself on giving excellent service to coach groups. With 26 ensuite bedrooms, all individually decorated, the hotel is a rated as a four-star guest house by VisitEngland. There are several ground floor rooms and also a lift to the first floor. Entertainment can be provided every night by prior arrangement.
Wales is a beautiful country and a firm favourite with holiday makers. The 60-room, three-star St Kilda Hotel in Llandudno in North Wales has been crowned ‘Best Individual Hotel for Groups’ in the Group Travel Awards for the last four years and is situated in an idyllic spot by the sea. Owned by the same proprietors for 24 years, the hotel offers all groups of 20 or more a fantastic group rate, two free places and live entertainment every night of the year during February and October. During January and March, ‘Showtime Breaks’ top the bill and with Christmas just around the corner, take advantage of the popular ‘Holly and Mistletoe Breaks.’ If your group loves a laugh and a good time whilst also appreciating stunning countryside, then the St Kilda is the perfect venue.
In the picturesque county of Yorkshire, the Rendezvous Hotel in Skipton invites groups from all over the country to enjoy its special rates and packages. Its facilities include a pool, sauna, steam room, gym and beauty salon, all of which will keep visitors occupied and relaxed whilst enjoying spectacular canal views from the 80 luxurious rooms. The Rendezvous opened 22 years ago in 1990 and has been rated a three-star hotel by the AA. The current owners have been there since 2003, and with a choice of room only, B&B rates and DB&B rates, this hotel – voted runner up in the ‘Best Individual Hotel for Groups’ category in the 2012 Group Travel Awards – is well worth a look.
Academic venues offer excellent value for money for group stays. The academic marketing consortium Venuemasters represents over 35 academic venues in the UK with group accommodation available. The team is on hand to give group leaders free and professional venue finding advice.
Many campuses in the group are investing in the development of new facilities, so groups really can take advantage of a touch of luxury at only a fraction of the cost of a mainstream hotel. Whether your group is interested in the seaside, rural or city centre settings, you will find something to suit all your needs, plus all universities are conveniently located close to popular tourist attractions and transport links, and offer a great social scene.
University accommodation is mainly available during the summer holidays from June to September, although some venues can also provide bedrooms during the Christmas and Easter breaks. In addition, there are a growing number of universities providing year-round accommodation. Many venues are now tailoring their deals to meet changing industry trends and provide special rates to stand out from the crowd.
Venuemasters member, Queen Mary, University of London offers the only self-contained campus in central London. Rooms are available as either self-catering or on a B&B rate. Queen Mary’s Student Village includes over 1,000 single and twin ensuite rooms. There are also over 400 single standard rooms with shared bathroom facilities. Rooms are arranged in flats of six to eight rooms with a communal kitchen and seating area. There are 19 wheelchair accessible bedrooms on campus and a 24-hour reception. Many of the rooms offer relaxing views overlooking the Mile End Millennium Park and Regent’s Canal.
Conference Hertfordshire, just 25 minutes from London, offers 1,600 ensuite single study bedrooms available in March and April and from June to September for group bookings of 10 or more people. The rooms are grouped into flats around a shared kitchen/recreation room and are conveniently located opposite the main restaurant, which serves a choice of full English or continental breakfast. The group B&B rate includes access to the onsite pool.
The University of Portsmouth, meanwhile, offers over 1,500 quality bedrooms, most being ensuite. Their accommodation facilities range from self catering and B&B to full board, and are situated at convenient locations across the city. The venue provides joint accommodation and visitor attraction packages. Visitors can also enjoy on campus leisure facilities including restaurants and licensed bars. For bookings consisting of 50 bednights or more, group benefits include competitive discounts, complimentary facilities for the coach driver or group escort, complimentary coach parking and flexible payment terms.
The Tremough Campus in Cornwall offers purpose built accommodation of over 1,220 bedrooms arranged as seven-bedroom apartments. In addition, there are 250 single standard bedrooms available in central Falmouth. The majority of spacious campus bedrooms have double beds plus some twins and bunks. All campus accommodation is ensuite, with a shared kitchen in each apartment. Apartments can be let on a room only, self-catering or B&B basis. Guests can also take advantage of on campus leisure facilities including gyms, a shop, bar and restaurants. Special rates for group bookings and discounts on a variety of bespoke activity holiday packages and tours are available on request.
In the north, York Conferences boasts a stunning green campus with high quality group accommodation, great onsite catering and a beautiful environment only 10 minutes from York’s historic city centre. The venue offers a range of facilities from self-catering to fully-catered new ensuite rooms, and there is something to fit every budget and need.
Leicester Conferences offers three-star single standard and ensuite accommodation. There are a number of adapted rooms for wheelchair users. There is free on-site parking and a 24-hour reception. As well as full/half board and B&B options, the venue offers self-catering flats with fully-equipped kitchens. Located in beautiful landscaped grounds, guests also have a unique opportunity to explore onsite botanic gardens.