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Transparency 'key to events packages in recession'


Jun 25, 2009 | Editors

As one of the largest hotel chains in the UK, with an annual turnover of £123 million, Ramada Jarvis knows a thing or two about how to run a successful business.

The company generates 20 per cent of its takings from its conference and event facilities across its 42 properties in mainland Britain and, along with other companies within the events industry, has witnessed challenging times of late due to the economic recession.

Joanna Fisher, director of hotel sales at Ramada Jarvis, explains that although corporate packages have been hit by the downturn, as firms are unwilling to be seen to be investing large sums of money in hospitality, there are other areas where the business is resilient.

"We're finding that our weddings are holding up, and that's on the back of a package that's very transparent to the customer," she says.

Ms Fisher asserts that the key to continuing sales of wedding packages has been a lack of hidden costs. She points to the company's Grand Event for Three Grand deal, where consumers can see exactly what they will get for their money.

"We've then very much focused our marketing campaigns on value-added packages for customers, so we're tying to create a portfolio of different packages that will suit all the different customer needs and including taking into account their budget needs. We understand price is a concern, but it's really about value for money as well," she adds.

Ramada Jarvis has also recently launched training packages which Ms Fisher says include "value-added items" that are most often requested by clients, which she insists makes it easier for the customer to buy.

"Another big focus this year is 24-hour corporate party nights," she reveals.

Last year, many businesses cancelled their Christmas party because they did not want to be seen to be spending extravagantly on large events.

Ms Fisher predicts that there will remain caution about this sort of investment again in 2009, which is the reason for Ramada Jarvis offering a bundle package including a corporate meeting and party night.

"You're almost getting a free Christmas party for a meeting you would have had to conduct anyway," she says.

"My slogan for this year has been 'easy to sell, easy to buy'. It's easy for people in our hotels to sell and easy for customers to do business with us," she explains.

Ms Fisher says that in the currently "volatile" market, the key for events professionals is to monitor any changes in the industry and move quickly to adapt to these.

"We shall continue with campaigns for the year, but it will be a year of trying to react fast to market changes and we don't know what those are going to be from almost one week to the next," she explains.

Ramada Jarvis is also making the most of online marketing, which Ms Fisher says is "at the heart" of all the company's strategies, which includes advertising through Venues.org.uk.

As for the future, Ms Fisher says it is difficult to predict how the industry is going to fare in the coming weeks and months, as the market is so changeable.

"But, overall, things are looking fairly positive," she concludes.

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