How integral are events to the hotel's overall success?
They form such a large part of the business. Recently we had an Irish family wedding with guests staying Friday through to Sunday and our rooms for that weekend were full. However, it's not just the fact that rooms have been filled which gives the business a boost. When guests are staying they spend on food and drink. The restaurant becomes busier and it creates a big buzz when an event's on. Hosting events has a really positive impact on a hotel.
When is the busiest time of year in the events calendar?
Christmas is our busiest time. We'll have parties for businesses or groups of friends - anyone who wants to come every day from the end of November. Some days we have two events - we'll have an afternoon party and then we turn the room around and get ready for the night-time event - so it can be really full-on.
The main wedding season is from around April to September which is surprisingly busy, but we're getting a lot of requests now for winter weddings. They are getting more popular, especially between Christmas and New Year when more people are off work and available to attend. I think a lot of people like the idea of the winter look for their weddings too.
When do you start planning for Christmas events?
This year we started to think of ideas around the end of January, beginning of February, which seems very early, but you need to get the ball rolling if you want to make it a success. Once you have an idea and theme then you've got something to work towards. If you haven't got that then how can you market or promote an event?
This year we're having a pantomime theme, so that theme will run through everything we do. In our promotional brochures for example we have the theatre curtains running through.
Planning for Christmas is an ongoing project throughout the year. From September onwards it's more full-on, but from February we'll have a meeting every three weeks to decide on the little things we need to do before the next one.
Our Christmas brochures will be going out now so we can get some early bookings in. Once the summer holiday season is ended we find that people start to look at Christmas and winter events.
Hoteliers have enough to think about, why should they add events into the mix?
It's an all round winner. If you have a function room or events space you don't want it to be empty. Money's lost then. Particularly if you can tie events into overnight stays it benefits the business all round.
If you're creative then every event can be different and are a way of attracting more people through your doors. Our Christmas parties are definitely something different for the area we're in. We stay away from offering the usual dinner and disco and try and operate under a theme that can be enjoyed by all the family.
What are your top tips to hosting successful events?
Plan well-ahead and keep a diary of set dates you need to action things by. You have to be organised and keep track of everything that's going on. There's never a quiet period, so you need to stay on top of it.
My other tip is focus on communication - with your clients, your suppliers and those organising it. When we meet with a new bride and groom, we ensure that one person is in touch with them from the first meeting right through to the big day. Sometimes it can be stressful for them, so we are there as a familiar voice for them to talk to whenever they need us.
You can never under-estimate the importance of communicating to ensure everything goes smoothly. All it takes sometimes is a quick phone call to check something and that can make a big difference to the event's outcome.