Editor's Blog

The story behind the refurb

It’s rare that a day goes by without news of a venue refurb dropping into my inbox.

Revamp, rebrand, refit; call it what you will, it all basically means that… well actually, what does it mean? What is involved in designing a conference venue for now – and for the future?

Wyboston Lakes Resort is in the midst of a £3 million transformation of its main venues, which are set to be renamed as The Woodlands Event Centre and The Willows Training Centre when they reopen in September. But how do you go about carrying out such a refurbishment?

We caught up with Steve Jones, operations director at Wyboston Lakes Resort, to find out more.

“Before investing £3m in our current project to transform our premium conference and events venue, we knew we had to find out what we could do, what we had to do, to add more of a ‘wow’ factor to the delegate experience – now and for the next 10 years,” he says.

“The team here researched extensively, particularly to help us to understand what impresses the millennial and Gen Y market, and that included speaking with many event planners. It gave us some fascinating insights that we have factored into the design specification for what will be the Woodlands Events Centre in the autumn.”

The team discovered they needed to provide great flexibility. Colour was important, as was plenty of space, less formality and an emphasis on relaxed, inspirational, creative environments.

“We’re providing more natural light and outdoor areas; high quality finishes, and high spec, easy to use tech for both delegates and event production,” adds Jones. “It all must create a unique, authentic and memorable experience.

“Taking a closer look at these conclusions and how they transfer into reality, it means providing more space and a greater variety of colourful meeting and breakout spaces, merging business and social environments. It means making it easy for delegates to use the tech they use at home when they are at the venue. They want different ‘Snapchatagenic’ food that is tasty, healthy and locally sourced, so more street food, bowl food, casual dining style.”

Finally, even though the word itself sounds like a skin condition, the concept of ‘bleisure’ is popular with the new breed of attendees.

“Delegates like the idea of ‘bleisure’, linking their business and leisure time together, perhaps staying an extra night with their partners joining them to enjoy the local facilities,” adds Jones. “We’ve integrated all these elements into our plans.

“The new generation of delegates have been brought up in a world of festival style events, with festival style food and easy access to technology. Interactivity and experiential communication are key features of conferences and exhibitions today so we have to help meeting planners to incorporate them. To create the ‘wow’ factor, venues need to provide delegates with the environment and style they like – providing a first class canvas where event organisers can add their imaginative ideas to create a memorable and unique experience.”

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