Bowood Estate delivers unique events with the personal touch

As competition for custom becomes fiercer across most industries and sectors, many businesses are looking for something a little different to set them apart from their rivals.

One option for companies is to exhibit and show off their business in a unique setting to impress potential clients.

The Bowood Estate in Wiltshire is one such venue which offers conferencing and events with a difference. Comprising a hotel, spa and golf resort, plus visitor attractions in the form of a stately home, gardens and adventure playground, it combines corporate and leisure facilities in a secluded and exclusive setting.

It hosts a variety of events, from outdoor pop concerts to large-scale corporate hospitality and weddings. The likes of KT Tunstall, Van Morrison, Mark Ronson and Van Morrison have also performed to thousands of fans in the estate grounds in the past.

James Stewart, general manager of Bowood Hotel, Spa, Golf Resort and Visitor Attractions, said that the key to the venue's success is the personal touch, which comes from it being privately owned.

He said that the venue is able to cater to special requirements: "We can tailor-make it to the client's needs, which you tend not to get in a corporate operation."

An example he gives is an event for Audi, which paid for exclusive use of the property in September.

"They wanted all sort of different things done - cocktails designed in their colours, cappuccinos done with the Audi logo on - and we were able to do all that," he explained.

Audi was so impressed that it has decided to host its event at Bowood again next year. And the company is not the only one interested in the Wiltshire estate.

"We're certainly getting a lot of enquiries for exclusive use with the hotel, the spa, the conference suites," Mr Stewart revealed. "We get a lot of enquiries coming through for the wedding market in that context as well, who're really looking for a unique venue that can be private and secluded but has history attached to it."

Bowood's beautiful surroundings make for a distinctive experience which is also particularly appealing to clients, according to Mr Stewart.

"Because of the setting, with a 2,000 acre estate, you have everything within the resort that you would require, which makes it quite unique," he explained.

It seems that this kind of special venue appeals to car manufacturers as a promotional tool. In previous summers, Renault ran a 'family day out' campaign, operated by agency TRO, which adopted a similar concept.

The events were held at 13 venues around the UK, including stately homes Chatsworth in Derbyshire and Glamis Castle in Scotland, with people invited to test drive cars around the estates.

Whatever the setting, quality and service are key to attracting and maintaining clients, according to Mr Stewart.

"I think if you work a personal relationship with the agent, which we do - we know them, we contact them, we speak to them personally - because we build that relationship, we are able to, I believe, stay ahead of the game and stay foremost in their minds."

Clients come from all sectors, he said, but they have in common a desire for a venue which can meet their specific needs but is also flexible.

"There is no boundary really, we're seeing quite a cross-section of companies coming to us who are interested in using the facilities because it's all on-site."

Bowood's hotel and spa only opened in May but is already proving a success, with the venue meeting its targets for 2009.

The use of the Bowood website and third-party portals has helped to generate good exposure for the brand, in addition to the publicity gained through the Hotel Booking Agents Association, Mr Stewart reported.

"Certainly, we're feeling that 2010 is looking promising and 2009 has been a good year for us.

"We're pleasantly surprised with what we've been achieving and again I think that's because it's a quality product and personal," he concluded.

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