The Growing Demand for Concentives: “The Extraordinary Conference Experience offered from Visitor attractions”

Authors: Whitfield, J.E.

Conference: Extraordinary Experiences Conference: Managing the Consumer Experience in Hospitality, Leisure, Sport, Tourism, Retail and Events

Dates: 3-4 September 2007


This paper will discuss the growing demand of conference venues supplying an “Extraordinary Conference Experience”. Unlike other conference venue classifications, visitor attractions with conference facilities have a unique selling point. They offer a more creative setting than a standard conference venue, thus can create ‘an Extraordinary Conference Experience’. As Wills (2002, p.38) states, “attractions are usually the first choice for a themed event" and "are often more flexible than hotels in terms of access times, theming and decorating" (Saunders, 2001, p.41). They provide so much to do and see, unlike any regular hotel or purpose-built centres (Saunders, ibid).

The demand for visitor attractions with conference facilities is growing, as companies become increasingly competitive in choosing venues that are designed to make an impression. After all, the attraction is not the room, but the venue itself. In today’s market place conference organisers look for venues that will fit the theme of an event. Such venues are no longer as much of an unconventional choice as they once were. In light of the realisation that visitor attractions offer more than just a conference facility, so they market themselves not only on the provision of conference facilities but also on the cultural aspect of their attraction. As more museums, castles, stately homes and theme parks and other visitor attractions identify the value of the conference market, the more they will respond to conference organisers’ needs.

Drawn from a wider survey population undertaken in 2001, this research is based upon a survey of 75 visitor attractions from across the UK. This paper examines the rationale for the establishment of conference facilities within visitor attractions. The survey results identify that many visitor attractions first entered the market place without investing heavily into providing the conference product. By using the research findings, this paper will identify the characteristics of the visitor attraction conference product. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the conference product and will identify issues such as difficulty of attractive repeat visitation as many conference organisers view visitor attractions as one off locations to host conferences.

This paper highlights the need for conference facilities to upgrade their conference product to create an “Extraordinary Conference Experience”. The research also identifies the refurbishment activities undertaken to create the conference facilities, refurbishment since opening and any future planned refurbishments. For visitor attractions, although cosmetic changes remain the most common refurbishment, structural changes involved with converting and extending are increasing common. However, the results highlight that since opening, visitor attractions have changed their strategy and are now willing to invest into their conference product as they are aware of the intense competition within the market place and to understand the market place there is a need for investment to maintain a place in the ever growing competitive environment and to be able to supply an extraordinary experience. This paper will identify why visitor attractions wish to diversify their product to offering conference facilities, and suggests how to improve the conference product to create an extraordinary experience.

Saunders, D., (2001). Unusual Venues, Remarkable Locations. Conference and Incentive Travel. . (November/December), A Haymarket publication. pp37-42. Wills, A., (2002). Museums and Attractions: Stimulating Settings. Conference & Incentive Travel. (April). A Haymarket Publication. pp.37-40.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Julie Whitfield