A Collaboration comes to fruition with the opening of the Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire in February 2021

A Collaboration comes to fruition with the opening of the Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire in February 2021.

It’s almost two years since the announcement of the collaboration between Keele University and Tower Hotel Management, to deliver the 150-bedroom Courtyard Hotel Keele Staffordshire, which opens on February 1st 2021.  Whilst most ventures of this nature will see challenges throughout the build, this project has had the additional challenges of managing a new build during a pandemic and the obstacles COVID-19 placed on the project.

This said, the introduction of the hotel on Keele University’s Science and Innovation Park will open new doors for Keele University Events and Conferencing, which will now be able to offer year-round residential conferencing, with four-star bedrooms, in addition to the summer vacation accommodation through the commercial letting of the 2,000 student bedrooms to host a plethora of domestic and international conferences.

We asked both Tower Hotel Management and Keele University Events and Conferencing to share with us the partnership and opportunities as a result of the collaboration.

What key benefits do you feel there are working in partnership with Keele University Events and Conferencing?

By partnering with Keele University Events and Conferencing, we will be able to offer quality and reliable accommodation for visitors whether that be visiting family, attending a conference, wedding or attending a graduation. The hotel will support the University and increase the likelihood of events that span a longer period which requires attendees to stay overnight.

The Scholars Restaurant and The Campus Coffee Shop serving Starbucks will create more community in the area and bring students, visitors, and business travellers together.

For Keele University Events and Conferencing, we now have the opportunity to promote year-round residential conferencing which offers four-star accommodation a short walk away from the historic Keele Hall, as well as offering overnight accommodation for our banqueting and event clients. We will also have the opportunity to bring some outsourced accommodation back onto the Campus with the hotel, which potentially offers greater flexibility for courses in their programme timing.

How do you feel academic venues can benefit by offering a Hotel Brand within their portfolio?

By offering a hotel brand, you’re automatically bringing an established audience on to campus – those who are familiar with staying with that brand for business or leisure. Hotel brands often bring with them services such as marketing and PR support, which will further the reach for the academic venue and creates a new USP for prospective students and their families.

What key benefits will clients benefit from when choosing Keele University Events and Conferencing as their conference venue and hosting accommodation at Courtyard by Marriott?

We believe clients are looking for a ‘one stop shop’ to provide all their conference and event needs, working with one event manager who can advise on aspects of preparation and be alongside them on the day to deliver the event.  Simplicity of event planning is key:

  1. Everything is available ‘on-campus’ – event space, accommodation, leisure facilities, extensive grounds, space for networking and socialising.
  2. Located in the Midlands, travelling by road, rail or air is all within easy reach of the campus, and once onsite, delegates can walk around this leafy rural campus and enjoy the flora and fauna.
  3. Varied conferencing space – from small meetings for 10 delegates to international congresses for 1,000, there is a host of lecture theatres, classrooms, exhibition space, labs and specialised areas that can be utilised by clients for their events.

What business objectives do both organisations share to bring to the conference and events market?

Introducing Courtyard by Marriott Keele to the campus enhances the University’s facilities for visitors, conference delegates, social events, and students. In addition, we foresee the hotel being popular with leisure guests visiting Staffordshire where there is a host of tourist attractions – from the historic potteries to Trentham Gardens, museums to the world-famous exhilarating Alton Towers, there’s something for everyone!

The collaboration will introduce both organisations to new opportunities, how will you realise these opportunities to convert into business?

The excellent facilities and reputation of the university, its commercially led Keele University Events and Conferencing and the strong Marriott global brand will open the opportunity to attract both national and international events to both venues. By close collaboration, understanding each other’s facilities, services and markets, we can ensure we maximise on the potential opportunities for the university and the hotel. The commercial team at Keele University Events and Conferencing have over 20 years’ experience in managing events, combined with our hotel team who excel in customer care, we are confident we have the perfect blend to strengthen our position as an award winning and leading academic venue in the UK.

What challenges do you think you will face as you open in early 2021?

The Coronavirus pandemic has affected the events and hospitality industries dramatically across the world and it is going to take some time to establish a ‘new normal’ and gain the confidence of the public to attend events safely. However, as the hotel is new – we have been able to tailor the interior and cleanliness/sanitising measures to be in line with Government guidelines and requirements.

Whilst we are unable to offer pre-opening client visits or on-site meetings at the moment, the hotel open in February 2021, to key workers and those requiring to be on campus. Our team will be speaking to clients and providing virtual tours of the venues and online meetings to introduce the hotel for their business needs. 

Marketing your businesses independently and collaborating is a fine balance, how do you plan to monitor this?

Both establishments have already started to identify those opportunities that would be a fit for the university and hotel as a suitable venue to host their events, however there will be opportunities for the hotel outside of this within the local market which will be another key focus and in turn may generate new opportunities for both parties. As we have both business and leisure opportunities, we are confident that our businesses will develop many new avenues as the hospitality industry reopens and begins its journey of recovery.

When non-residential conference venues are seeking to partner with an accommodation provider, what do you think is key to create a successful partnership?

A great working relationship is essential, understanding each other’s products, services, clients, and objectives are crucial along with a shared vision of bringing further residential conference and events to the sites.  Bringing together the joint skills and experience of our two teams provides great peer to peer networking to deliver creative and innovative marketing and sales strategies.

Whilst conducting this conversational piece, Peter de la Perrelle, Managing Director of Tower Hotel Management, the hotel operator for the new Courtyard by Marriott at Keele Staffordshire said: “Since we began on site in October 2019, we have been working closely and in collaboration with the Keele University Events and Conferencing team to promote the new establishment and gain a captive audience ahead of the launch.

“We would like to thank the Keele University Events and Conferencing team for their continued support, and we look forward to welcoming our first guests through the doors in February 2021.”

Emma Woodcock, Head of Event and Business Development for Keele University Events and Conferencing said: “We are delighted to have Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire as part of our commercial portfolio. Being able to offer year-round accommodation to our potential clients will give us many more avenues from which to source our business. As a leading academic venue, we know that this will provide us with even more opportunities to introduce new clients to the exceptional facilities we have across the Keele University Campus. Over the past few months, we have been working with the hotel team on some joint opportunities and know this will continue to grow over the coming months.”

As we head into spring and embark on the road to recovery for the hospitality industry, we will be sharing our news across our social media platforms. If you are interested in finding out more about our venture,  please contact Christine Page, Marketing and PR Keele University Events and Conferencing (c.e.page1@keele.ac.uk) or Elen Crean, PR and Social Media Project Manager, Tower Hotel Management (ECrean@peellandp.co.uk)

 

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Academic Venue Solutions invited Emma Woodcock, Head of Events and Business Development/Covid Response Team Manager at Keele University Events and Conferencing to share the value of being a Board Member within the consortium.

Board Members play an important role in the strategic direction for the consortium, to work with our academic venue members and position Academic Venue Solutions (AVS) as the natural partner for conference and event planners.  Emma has been a Board Member since 2017 and shares her involvement and how this benefits her academic venue.

What key strengths do you bring to the Board Team for Academic Venues Solutions?

Having worked at Keele University Events and Conferencing for over 18 years and taking up the role of Head of Event and Business Development, I have a great understanding of University politics and strategy, and how the commercial portfolio complements the University objectives.  This knowledge I feel is invaluable as a Board Member for AVS to understand the unique dimensions our members work within. In a competitive world, I am a true optimist, and always see the ‘bright side’ never letting a potential revenue generating opportunity pass me by.  But at the same time, I am happy to hold my hand up for further clarification when I am chartering unfamiliar waters, as I see my Board Member capacity as a learning curve with peers who are from other aspects of University life. Our combined strengths as Board Members position Academic Venue Solutions as a strong contender within the MICE sector and we are the only consortium specialising solely on academic venues.

What benefits do you believe being a Board Member for AVS gives your organisation?

The consortium is non profit making, however each and every member, quite rightly is looking for the ROI on their membership fees.  Representing the members, I feel I challenge and question to ensure we all get great value for money and our membership fees are well spent. Collaborations AVS deliver to its members gives us a fantastic network of contacts, not just in Events and Conferencing but in other areas of the University; catering, accommodation, and IT for example.  It provides me with a really good understanding of where our niche bit of the MICE industry is, and I share this with my team to create sales and marketing strategies that will deliver our financial targets. In addition, we have opportunities to join focus groups with external organisations providing our sector with goods and services who are looking to develop their products and what to meet with their audience for development ideas and feedback. On a personal note, there is no better development than being on the AVS Board, you simply could not buy this detailed senior level of personal development.

The pandemic placed the events industry in a tailspin, what have been your biggest challenges/greatest achievements over the past 12 months?

Almost a year ago, we were a very buoyant business and to see how quickly this shut down through lockdown was initially quite scary.  We were all in completely unchartered waters.  The University quite rightly was also working through what this meant for Student Learning and no one knew the time that would pass before we were positively looking to return to our full levels of service. What became evident very quickly for my team was the transference of their customer service skills, knowledge of the campus to create new ‘COVID’ spaces and of course keep in contact with our client base, moving events, providing reassurance to social events and ensuring we delivered all the changes to be able to reopen safely, securely and providing confidence for our clients to meet at Keele University Events and Conferencing once again. In September 2020, I pivoted my skills to lead the Covid Response Team at Keele University.  At first it felt a bit like a ‘Corona Coaster’ as I built up a team from scratch utilising some members from KUEC but also bringing in other colleagues from areas of the University, developing processes and systems in a matter of days.  We had to build relationships with Health Protection Teams and repor directly to the Executive Committee of the University.  We ensure that covid cases, isolations and contact tracing is well managed, in turn, keeping the campus and local communities safe.  The dedication of the team to deliver this, is contributable to the relatively low level of cases at Keele University and is something I am really proud of. Preparing for the students to return home to families for Christmas, led to the Asymptomatic Testing Centre on campus, using KUEC team members once again to build this from scratch with an 8-day deadline to be fully operational.  This was a big ask…events of this nature and complexity would normally take 12/24 months to plan, so I had to turn to my 10 years’ experience in business development, managing and delivering events on behalf of clients and my vast contacts to push this through in the timescale. To date we have facilitated 10,397 staff and student tests. From the outset of the pandemic, and my team’s roles changing to support the University, I didn’t want to lose the momentum we have gained in our commercial business.  So, I took the strategic decision to use external consultancy support, with academic venue experience to work alongside a small core business development team and was able to trust them all to do a great job.  We had regular touchpoint meetings, but I am so pleased they have kept our commercial business intact for us to return to over the coming months. Amidst all our activities on campus, additionally in February 2021, we saw the opening of Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire hotel, a 150 bedroomed hotel with café, bar, fitness centre and outdoor dining space…so #nowyoucanstaytoo!  Currently delivering services to Key Workers and takeaway food and beverage, we are excited to see the full hotel open to business in May.

How do you feel your business strategies have changed as a result of the pandemic?

KUEC was about to enter a time of growth and change anyway with the addition of the hotel and hopefully being able to tap into new markets. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to really focus on our new sales and marketing strategies and review the areas of focus for the team. We have always enjoyed a high level of returning customers, internal events and are spending time reviewing our key sectors to understand how the pandemic has changed their business and respond positively to reengage. We are hoping that being a green leafy campus will be to our advantage as meetings and events start up again.  What hasn’t changed is that Keele University Events and Conferencing is a leading academic venue in the UK, and in 2020 we were proud to be recognised as the Best Academic/Research Institution Meeting Venue at the CHS Awards.

What are your key objectives as Academic Venues reopen their commercial portfolio?

The commercial portfolio that Academic Venues offer is second to none for conference organisers, however we also recognise that our priority is to support the University. My time as Covid Response Team leader has certainly provided enhanced insight into the pandemic, responses and ultimately how the team have worked to make the campus a safe and secure place to be.  I know that this is invaluable as we talk to clients looking to return to face-to-face events and looking for knowledgeable guidance on how to deliver these.  Our green open space provides a relaxing environment which is dedicated to learning and delegates will be able to enjoy the outdoors. I know that business will not return to pre pandemic overnight, however we are looking forward to embracing a new future and partnerships with our Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire lets us explore previously untapped markets. KUEC I am confident will return to delivering a significant contribution back to the University to reinvest in world class teaching and research. Returning to my role as a Board Member for AVS, I alongside other board members, will be looking forward to supporting our member venues and continuing to deliver strong industry collaborations and recognition within the MICE sector as a key consortium to deliver MICE events." 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It’s almost two years since the announcement of the collaboration between Keele University and Tower Hotel Management, to deliver the 150-bedroom Courtyard Hotel Keele Staffordshire, which opens on February 1st 2021.  Whilst most ventures of this nature will see challenges throughout the build, this project has had the additional challenges of managing a new build during a pandemic and the obstacles COVID-19 placed on the project. This said, the introduction of the hotel on Keele University’s Science and Innovation Park will open new doors for Keele University Events and Conferencing, which will now be able to offer year-round residential conferencing, with four-star bedrooms, in addition to the summer vacation accommodation through the commercial letting of the 2,000 student bedrooms to host a plethora of domestic and international conferences. We asked both Tower Hotel Management and Keele University Events and Conferencing to share with us the partnership and opportunities as a result of the collaboration. What key benefits do you feel there are working in partnership with Keele University Events and Conferencing? By partnering with Keele University Events and Conferencing, we will be able to offer quality and reliable accommodation for visitors whether that be visiting family, attending a conference, wedding or attending a graduation. The hotel will support the University and increase the likelihood of events that span a longer period which requires attendees to stay overnight. The Scholars Restaurant and The Campus Coffee Shop serving Starbucks will create more community in the area and bring students, visitors, and business travellers together. For Keele University Events and Conferencing, we now have the opportunity to promote year-round residential conferencing which offers four-star accommodation a short walk away from the historic Keele Hall, as well as offering overnight accommodation for our banqueting and event clients. We will also have the opportunity to bring some outsourced accommodation back onto the Campus with the hotel, which potentially offers greater flexibility for courses in their programme timing. How do you feel academic venues can benefit by offering a Hotel Brand within their portfolio? By offering a hotel brand, you’re automatically bringing an established audience on to campus – those who are familiar with staying with that brand for business or leisure. Hotel brands often bring with them services such as marketing and PR support, which will further the reach for the academic venue and creates a new USP for prospective students and their families. What key benefits will clients benefit from when choosing Keele University Events and Conferencing as their conference venue and hosting accommodation at Courtyard by Marriott? We believe clients are looking for a ‘one stop shop’ to provide all their conference and event needs, working with one event manager who can advise on aspects of preparation and be alongside them on the day to deliver the event.  Simplicity of event planning is key:
  1. Everything is available ‘on-campus’ – event space, accommodation, leisure facilities, extensive grounds, space for networking and socialising.
  2. Located in the Midlands, travelling by road, rail or air is all within easy reach of the campus, and once onsite, delegates can walk around this leafy rural campus and enjoy the flora and fauna.
  3. Varied conferencing space – from small meetings for 10 delegates to international congresses for 1,000, there is a host of lecture theatres, classrooms, exhibition space, labs and specialised areas that can be utilised by clients for their events.
What business objectives do both organisations share to bring to the conference and events market? Introducing Courtyard by Marriott Keele to the campus enhances the University’s facilities for visitors, conference delegates, social events, and students. In addition, we foresee the hotel being popular with leisure guests visiting Staffordshire where there is a host of tourist attractions - from the historic potteries to Trentham Gardens, museums to the world-famous exhilarating Alton Towers, there’s something for everyone! The collaboration will introduce both organisations to new opportunities, how will you realise these opportunities to convert into business? The excellent facilities and reputation of the university, its commercially led Keele University Events and Conferencing and the strong Marriott global brand will open the opportunity to attract both national and international events to both venues. By close collaboration, understanding each other’s facilities, services and markets, we can ensure we maximise on the potential opportunities for the university and the hotel. The commercial team at Keele University Events and Conferencing have over 20 years’ experience in managing events, combined with our hotel team who excel in customer care, we are confident we have the perfect blend to strengthen our position as an award winning and leading academic venue in the UK. What challenges do you think you will face as you open in early 2021? The Coronavirus pandemic has affected the events and hospitality industries dramatically across the world and it is going to take some time to establish a ‘new normal’ and gain the confidence of the public to attend events safely. However, as the hotel is new – we have been able to tailor the interior and cleanliness/sanitising measures to be in line with Government guidelines and requirements. Whilst we are unable to offer pre-opening client visits or on-site meetings at the moment, the hotel open in February 2021, to key workers and those requiring to be on campus. Our team will be speaking to clients and providing virtual tours of the venues and online meetings to introduce the hotel for their business needs.  Marketing your businesses independently and collaborating is a fine balance, how do you plan to monitor this? Both establishments have already started to identify those opportunities that would be a fit for the university and hotel as a suitable venue to host their events, however there will be opportunities for the hotel outside of this within the local market which will be another key focus and in turn may generate new opportunities for both parties. As we have both business and leisure opportunities, we are confident that our businesses will develop many new avenues as the hospitality industry reopens and begins its journey of recovery. When non-residential conference venues are seeking to partner with an accommodation provider, what do you think is key to create a successful partnership? A great working relationship is essential, understanding each other’s products, services, clients, and objectives are crucial along with a shared vision of bringing further residential conference and events to the sites.  Bringing together the joint skills and experience of our two teams provides great peer to peer networking to deliver creative and innovative marketing and sales strategies. Whilst conducting this conversational piece, Peter de la Perrelle, Managing Director of Tower Hotel Management, the hotel operator for the new Courtyard by Marriott at Keele Staffordshire said: “Since we began on site in October 2019, we have been working closely and in collaboration with the Keele University Events and Conferencing team to promote the new establishment and gain a captive audience ahead of the launch. “We would like to thank the Keele University Events and Conferencing team for their continued support, and we look forward to welcoming our first guests through the doors in February 2021.” Emma Woodcock, Head of Event and Business Development for Keele University Events and Conferencing said: “We are delighted to have Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire as part of our commercial portfolio. Being able to offer year-round accommodation to our potential clients will give us many more avenues from which to source our business. As a leading academic venue, we know that this will provide us with even more opportunities to introduce new clients to the exceptional facilities we have across the Keele University Campus. Over the past few months, we have been working with the hotel team on some joint opportunities and know this will continue to grow over the coming months.” As we head into spring and embark on the road to recovery for the hospitality industry, we will be sharing our news across our social media platforms. 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Academic Venue Solutions invited Emma Woodcock, Head of Events and Business Development/Covid Response Team Manager at Keele University Events and Conferencing to share the value of being a Board Member within the consortium.

Board Members play an important role in the strategic direction for the consortium, to work with our academic venue members and position Academic Venue Solutions (AVS) as the natural partner for conference and event planners.  Emma has been a Board Member since 2017 and shares her involvement and how this benefits her academic venue.

What key strengths do you bring to the Board Team for Academic Venues Solutions?

Having worked at Keele University Events and Conferencing for over 18 years and taking up the role of Head of Event and Business Development, I have a great understanding of University politics and strategy, and how the commercial portfolio complements the University objectives.  This knowledge I feel is invaluable as a Board Member for AVS to understand the unique dimensions our members work within. In a competitive world, I am a true optimist, and always see the ‘bright side’ never letting a potential revenue generating opportunity pass me by.  But at the same time, I am happy to hold my hand up for further clarification when I am chartering unfamiliar waters, as I see my Board Member capacity as a learning curve with peers who are from other aspects of University life. Our combined strengths as Board Members position Academic Venue Solutions as a strong contender within the MICE sector and we are the only consortium specialising solely on academic venues.

What benefits do you believe being a Board Member for AVS gives your organisation?

The consortium is non profit making, however each and every member, quite rightly is looking for the ROI on their membership fees.  Representing the members, I feel I challenge and question to ensure we all get great value for money and our membership fees are well spent. Collaborations AVS deliver to its members gives us a fantastic network of contacts, not just in Events and Conferencing but in other areas of the University; catering, accommodation, and IT for example.  It provides me with a really good understanding of where our niche bit of the MICE industry is, and I share this with my team to create sales and marketing strategies that will deliver our financial targets. In addition, we have opportunities to join focus groups with external organisations providing our sector with goods and services who are looking to develop their products and what to meet with their audience for development ideas and feedback. On a personal note, there is no better development than being on the AVS Board, you simply could not buy this detailed senior level of personal development.

The pandemic placed the events industry in a tailspin, what have been your biggest challenges/greatest achievements over the past 12 months?

Almost a year ago, we were a very buoyant business and to see how quickly this shut down through lockdown was initially quite scary.  We were all in completely unchartered waters.  The University quite rightly was also working through what this meant for Student Learning and no one knew the time that would pass before we were positively looking to return to our full levels of service. What became evident very quickly for my team was the transference of their customer service skills, knowledge of the campus to create new ‘COVID’ spaces and of course keep in contact with our client base, moving events, providing reassurance to social events and ensuring we delivered all the changes to be able to reopen safely, securely and providing confidence for our clients to meet at Keele University Events and Conferencing once again. In September 2020, I pivoted my skills to lead the Covid Response Team at Keele University.  At first it felt a bit like a ‘Corona Coaster’ as I built up a team from scratch utilising some members from KUEC but also bringing in other colleagues from areas of the University, developing processes and systems in a matter of days.  We had to build relationships with Health Protection Teams and repor directly to the Executive Committee of the University.  We ensure that covid cases, isolations and contact tracing is well managed, in turn, keeping the campus and local communities safe.  The dedication of the team to deliver this, is contributable to the relatively low level of cases at Keele University and is something I am really proud of. Preparing for the students to return home to families for Christmas, led to the Asymptomatic Testing Centre on campus, using KUEC team members once again to build this from scratch with an 8-day deadline to be fully operational.  This was a big ask…events of this nature and complexity would normally take 12/24 months to plan, so I had to turn to my 10 years’ experience in business development, managing and delivering events on behalf of clients and my vast contacts to push this through in the timescale. To date we have facilitated 10,397 staff and student tests. From the outset of the pandemic, and my team’s roles changing to support the University, I didn’t want to lose the momentum we have gained in our commercial business.  So, I took the strategic decision to use external consultancy support, with academic venue experience to work alongside a small core business development team and was able to trust them all to do a great job.  We had regular touchpoint meetings, but I am so pleased they have kept our commercial business intact for us to return to over the coming months. Amidst all our activities on campus, additionally in February 2021, we saw the opening of Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire hotel, a 150 bedroomed hotel with café, bar, fitness centre and outdoor dining space…so #nowyoucanstaytoo!  Currently delivering services to Key Workers and takeaway food and beverage, we are excited to see the full hotel open to business in May.

How do you feel your business strategies have changed as a result of the pandemic?

KUEC was about to enter a time of growth and change anyway with the addition of the hotel and hopefully being able to tap into new markets. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to really focus on our new sales and marketing strategies and review the areas of focus for the team. We have always enjoyed a high level of returning customers, internal events and are spending time reviewing our key sectors to understand how the pandemic has changed their business and respond positively to reengage. We are hoping that being a green leafy campus will be to our advantage as meetings and events start up again.  What hasn’t changed is that Keele University Events and Conferencing is a leading academic venue in the UK, and in 2020 we were proud to be recognised as the Best Academic/Research Institution Meeting Venue at the CHS Awards.

What are your key objectives as Academic Venues reopen their commercial portfolio?

The commercial portfolio that Academic Venues offer is second to none for conference organisers, however we also recognise that our priority is to support the University. My time as Covid Response Team leader has certainly provided enhanced insight into the pandemic, responses and ultimately how the team have worked to make the campus a safe and secure place to be.  I know that this is invaluable as we talk to clients looking to return to face-to-face events and looking for knowledgeable guidance on how to deliver these.  Our green open space provides a relaxing environment which is dedicated to learning and delegates will be able to enjoy the outdoors. I know that business will not return to pre pandemic overnight, however we are looking forward to embracing a new future and partnerships with our Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire lets us explore previously untapped markets. KUEC I am confident will return to delivering a significant contribution back to the University to reinvest in world class teaching and research. Returning to my role as a Board Member for AVS, I alongside other board members, will be looking forward to supporting our member venues and continuing to deliver strong industry collaborations and recognition within the MICE sector as a key consortium to deliver MICE events." ["_wysiwyg_content"]=> string(19) "field_5b759cab38807" ["wysiwyg_widgets"]=> string(0) "" ["_wysiwyg_widgets"]=> string(19) "field_5b759cab3883c" ["wysiwyg_widgets_copy"]=> string(0) "" ["_wysiwyg_widgets_copy"]=> string(19) "field_5f6ca606650a5" ["read_more_display_type"]=> string(9) "automatic" ["_read_more_display_type"]=> string(19) "field_5d9369165835e" ["misc_excerpt"]=> string(117) "Emma Woodcock, Head of Business Development shares the value of her Board Member role within Academic Venue Solutions" ["_misc_excerpt"]=> string(19) "field_5d9499d65b85c" ["misc_thumbnail"]=> string(4) "3266" ["_misc_thumbnail"]=> string(19) "field_5d949a055b85d" ["misc_include_share"]=> string(1) "1" ["_misc_include_share"]=> string(19) "field_5e9eec4c68840" ["_yoast_wpseo_focuskw"]=> string(40) "Keele University Events and Conferencing" ["_yoast_wpseo_metadesc"]=> string(194) "Emma Woodcock, Head of Business Development at Keele University Events and Conferencing talks about how her involvement as a Board Member fo Academic Venue Solutions benefits her academic venue." ["_yoast_wpseo_linkdex"]=> string(2) "48" ["_yoast_wpseo_content_score"]=> string(2) "30" } ["___content":protected]=> NULL ["_permalink":protected]=> NULL ["_next":protected]=> array(0) { } ["_prev":protected]=> array(0) { } ["_css_class":protected]=> NULL ["id"]=> int(3265) ["ID"]=> int(3265) ["post_author"]=> string(1) "8" ["post_content"]=> string(0) "" ["post_date"]=> string(19) "2021-03-30 10:47:14" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(117) "Emma Woodcock, Head of Business Development shares the value of her Board Member role within Academic Venue Solutions" ["post_parent"]=> int(0) ["post_status"]=> string(7) "publish" ["post_title"]=> string(125) "Emma Woodcock shares how her Board Member role in Academic Venues Solutions provides her with great insights for her business" ["post_type"]=> string(7) "article" ["slug"]=> string(125) "emma-woodcock-shares-how-her-board-member-role-in-academic-venues-solutions-provides-her-with-great-insights-for-her-business" ["__type":protected]=> NULL ["_edit_lock"]=> string(12) "1617102712:8" ["_edit_last"]=> string(1) "8" ["_thumbnail_id"]=> string(4) "3267" ["heading_title"]=> string(121) "Emma Woodcock, Head of Business Development shares the value of her Board Member position within Academic Venue Solutions" ["_heading_title"]=> string(19) "field_5d936856d51c9" ["gallery_images"]=> array(1) { [0]=> string(4) "3267" } ["_gallery_images"]=> string(19) "field_5d936887d51cb" ["wysiwyg_content"]=> string(8534) "

Academic Venue Solutions invited Emma Woodcock, Head of Events and Business Development/Covid Response Team Manager at Keele University Events and Conferencing to share the value of being a Board Member within the consortium.

Board Members play an important role in the strategic direction for the consortium, to work with our academic venue members and position Academic Venue Solutions (AVS) as the natural partner for conference and event planners.  Emma has been a Board Member since 2017 and shares her involvement and how this benefits her academic venue.

What key strengths do you bring to the Board Team for Academic Venues Solutions?

Having worked at Keele University Events and Conferencing for over 18 years and taking up the role of Head of Event and Business Development, I have a great understanding of University politics and strategy, and how the commercial portfolio complements the University objectives.  This knowledge I feel is invaluable as a Board Member for AVS to understand the unique dimensions our members work within. In a competitive world, I am a true optimist, and always see the ‘bright side’ never letting a potential revenue generating opportunity pass me by.  But at the same time, I am happy to hold my hand up for further clarification when I am chartering unfamiliar waters, as I see my Board Member capacity as a learning curve with peers who are from other aspects of University life. Our combined strengths as Board Members position Academic Venue Solutions as a strong contender within the MICE sector and we are the only consortium specialising solely on academic venues.

What benefits do you believe being a Board Member for AVS gives your organisation?

The consortium is non profit making, however each and every member, quite rightly is looking for the ROI on their membership fees.  Representing the members, I feel I challenge and question to ensure we all get great value for money and our membership fees are well spent. Collaborations AVS deliver to its members gives us a fantastic network of contacts, not just in Events and Conferencing but in other areas of the University; catering, accommodation, and IT for example.  It provides me with a really good understanding of where our niche bit of the MICE industry is, and I share this with my team to create sales and marketing strategies that will deliver our financial targets. In addition, we have opportunities to join focus groups with external organisations providing our sector with goods and services who are looking to develop their products and what to meet with their audience for development ideas and feedback. On a personal note, there is no better development than being on the AVS Board, you simply could not buy this detailed senior level of personal development.

The pandemic placed the events industry in a tailspin, what have been your biggest challenges/greatest achievements over the past 12 months?

Almost a year ago, we were a very buoyant business and to see how quickly this shut down through lockdown was initially quite scary.  We were all in completely unchartered waters.  The University quite rightly was also working through what this meant for Student Learning and no one knew the time that would pass before we were positively looking to return to our full levels of service. What became evident very quickly for my team was the transference of their customer service skills, knowledge of the campus to create new ‘COVID’ spaces and of course keep in contact with our client base, moving events, providing reassurance to social events and ensuring we delivered all the changes to be able to reopen safely, securely and providing confidence for our clients to meet at Keele University Events and Conferencing once again. In September 2020, I pivoted my skills to lead the Covid Response Team at Keele University.  At first it felt a bit like a ‘Corona Coaster’ as I built up a team from scratch utilising some members from KUEC but also bringing in other colleagues from areas of the University, developing processes and systems in a matter of days.  We had to build relationships with Health Protection Teams and repor directly to the Executive Committee of the University.  We ensure that covid cases, isolations and contact tracing is well managed, in turn, keeping the campus and local communities safe.  The dedication of the team to deliver this, is contributable to the relatively low level of cases at Keele University and is something I am really proud of. Preparing for the students to return home to families for Christmas, led to the Asymptomatic Testing Centre on campus, using KUEC team members once again to build this from scratch with an 8-day deadline to be fully operational.  This was a big ask…events of this nature and complexity would normally take 12/24 months to plan, so I had to turn to my 10 years’ experience in business development, managing and delivering events on behalf of clients and my vast contacts to push this through in the timescale. To date we have facilitated 10,397 staff and student tests. From the outset of the pandemic, and my team’s roles changing to support the University, I didn’t want to lose the momentum we have gained in our commercial business.  So, I took the strategic decision to use external consultancy support, with academic venue experience to work alongside a small core business development team and was able to trust them all to do a great job.  We had regular touchpoint meetings, but I am so pleased they have kept our commercial business intact for us to return to over the coming months. Amidst all our activities on campus, additionally in February 2021, we saw the opening of Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire hotel, a 150 bedroomed hotel with café, bar, fitness centre and outdoor dining space…so #nowyoucanstaytoo!  Currently delivering services to Key Workers and takeaway food and beverage, we are excited to see the full hotel open to business in May.

How do you feel your business strategies have changed as a result of the pandemic?

KUEC was about to enter a time of growth and change anyway with the addition of the hotel and hopefully being able to tap into new markets. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to really focus on our new sales and marketing strategies and review the areas of focus for the team. We have always enjoyed a high level of returning customers, internal events and are spending time reviewing our key sectors to understand how the pandemic has changed their business and respond positively to reengage. We are hoping that being a green leafy campus will be to our advantage as meetings and events start up again.  What hasn’t changed is that Keele University Events and Conferencing is a leading academic venue in the UK, and in 2020 we were proud to be recognised as the Best Academic/Research Institution Meeting Venue at the CHS Awards.

What are your key objectives as Academic Venues reopen their commercial portfolio?

The commercial portfolio that Academic Venues offer is second to none for conference organisers, however we also recognise that our priority is to support the University. My time as Covid Response Team leader has certainly provided enhanced insight into the pandemic, responses and ultimately how the team have worked to make the campus a safe and secure place to be.  I know that this is invaluable as we talk to clients looking to return to face-to-face events and looking for knowledgeable guidance on how to deliver these.  Our green open space provides a relaxing environment which is dedicated to learning and delegates will be able to enjoy the outdoors. I know that business will not return to pre pandemic overnight, however we are looking forward to embracing a new future and partnerships with our Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire lets us explore previously untapped markets. KUEC I am confident will return to delivering a significant contribution back to the University to reinvest in world class teaching and research. Returning to my role as a Board Member for AVS, I alongside other board members, will be looking forward to supporting our member venues and continuing to deliver strong industry collaborations and recognition within the MICE sector as a key consortium to deliver MICE events." 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It’s almost two years since the announcement of the collaboration between Keele University and Tower Hotel Management, to deliver the 150-bedroom Courtyard Hotel Keele Staffordshire, which opens on February 1st 2021.  Whilst most ventures of this nature will see challenges throughout the build, this project has had the additional challenges of managing a new build during a pandemic and the obstacles COVID-19 placed on the project. This said, the introduction of the hotel on Keele University’s Science and Innovation Park will open new doors for Keele University Events and Conferencing, which will now be able to offer year-round residential conferencing, with four-star bedrooms, in addition to the summer vacation accommodation through the commercial letting of the 2,000 student bedrooms to host a plethora of domestic and international conferences. We asked both Tower Hotel Management and Keele University Events and Conferencing to share with us the partnership and opportunities as a result of the collaboration. What key benefits do you feel there are working in partnership with Keele University Events and Conferencing? By partnering with Keele University Events and Conferencing, we will be able to offer quality and reliable accommodation for visitors whether that be visiting family, attending a conference, wedding or attending a graduation. The hotel will support the University and increase the likelihood of events that span a longer period which requires attendees to stay overnight. The Scholars Restaurant and The Campus Coffee Shop serving Starbucks will create more community in the area and bring students, visitors, and business travellers together. For Keele University Events and Conferencing, we now have the opportunity to promote year-round residential conferencing which offers four-star accommodation a short walk away from the historic Keele Hall, as well as offering overnight accommodation for our banqueting and event clients. We will also have the opportunity to bring some outsourced accommodation back onto the Campus with the hotel, which potentially offers greater flexibility for courses in their programme timing. How do you feel academic venues can benefit by offering a Hotel Brand within their portfolio? By offering a hotel brand, you’re automatically bringing an established audience on to campus – those who are familiar with staying with that brand for business or leisure. Hotel brands often bring with them services such as marketing and PR support, which will further the reach for the academic venue and creates a new USP for prospective students and their families. What key benefits will clients benefit from when choosing Keele University Events and Conferencing as their conference venue and hosting accommodation at Courtyard by Marriott? We believe clients are looking for a ‘one stop shop’ to provide all their conference and event needs, working with one event manager who can advise on aspects of preparation and be alongside them on the day to deliver the event.  Simplicity of event planning is key:
  1. Everything is available ‘on-campus’ – event space, accommodation, leisure facilities, extensive grounds, space for networking and socialising.
  2. Located in the Midlands, travelling by road, rail or air is all within easy reach of the campus, and once onsite, delegates can walk around this leafy rural campus and enjoy the flora and fauna.
  3. Varied conferencing space – from small meetings for 10 delegates to international congresses for 1,000, there is a host of lecture theatres, classrooms, exhibition space, labs and specialised areas that can be utilised by clients for their events.
What business objectives do both organisations share to bring to the conference and events market? Introducing Courtyard by Marriott Keele to the campus enhances the University’s facilities for visitors, conference delegates, social events, and students. In addition, we foresee the hotel being popular with leisure guests visiting Staffordshire where there is a host of tourist attractions - from the historic potteries to Trentham Gardens, museums to the world-famous exhilarating Alton Towers, there’s something for everyone! The collaboration will introduce both organisations to new opportunities, how will you realise these opportunities to convert into business? The excellent facilities and reputation of the university, its commercially led Keele University Events and Conferencing and the strong Marriott global brand will open the opportunity to attract both national and international events to both venues. By close collaboration, understanding each other’s facilities, services and markets, we can ensure we maximise on the potential opportunities for the university and the hotel. The commercial team at Keele University Events and Conferencing have over 20 years’ experience in managing events, combined with our hotel team who excel in customer care, we are confident we have the perfect blend to strengthen our position as an award winning and leading academic venue in the UK. What challenges do you think you will face as you open in early 2021? The Coronavirus pandemic has affected the events and hospitality industries dramatically across the world and it is going to take some time to establish a ‘new normal’ and gain the confidence of the public to attend events safely. However, as the hotel is new – we have been able to tailor the interior and cleanliness/sanitising measures to be in line with Government guidelines and requirements. Whilst we are unable to offer pre-opening client visits or on-site meetings at the moment, the hotel open in February 2021, to key workers and those requiring to be on campus. Our team will be speaking to clients and providing virtual tours of the venues and online meetings to introduce the hotel for their business needs.  Marketing your businesses independently and collaborating is a fine balance, how do you plan to monitor this? Both establishments have already started to identify those opportunities that would be a fit for the university and hotel as a suitable venue to host their events, however there will be opportunities for the hotel outside of this within the local market which will be another key focus and in turn may generate new opportunities for both parties. As we have both business and leisure opportunities, we are confident that our businesses will develop many new avenues as the hospitality industry reopens and begins its journey of recovery. When non-residential conference venues are seeking to partner with an accommodation provider, what do you think is key to create a successful partnership? A great working relationship is essential, understanding each other’s products, services, clients, and objectives are crucial along with a shared vision of bringing further residential conference and events to the sites.  Bringing together the joint skills and experience of our two teams provides great peer to peer networking to deliver creative and innovative marketing and sales strategies. Whilst conducting this conversational piece, Peter de la Perrelle, Managing Director of Tower Hotel Management, the hotel operator for the new Courtyard by Marriott at Keele Staffordshire said: “Since we began on site in October 2019, we have been working closely and in collaboration with the Keele University Events and Conferencing team to promote the new establishment and gain a captive audience ahead of the launch. “We would like to thank the Keele University Events and Conferencing team for their continued support, and we look forward to welcoming our first guests through the doors in February 2021.” Emma Woodcock, Head of Event and Business Development for Keele University Events and Conferencing said: “We are delighted to have Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire as part of our commercial portfolio. Being able to offer year-round accommodation to our potential clients will give us many more avenues from which to source our business. As a leading academic venue, we know that this will provide us with even more opportunities to introduce new clients to the exceptional facilities we have across the Keele University Campus. Over the past few months, we have been working with the hotel team on some joint opportunities and know this will continue to grow over the coming months.” As we head into spring and embark on the road to recovery for the hospitality industry, we will be sharing our news across our social media platforms. If you are interested in finding out more about our venture,  please contact Christine Page, Marketing and PR Keele University Events and Conferencing (c.e.page1@keele.ac.uk) or Elen Crean, PR and Social Media Project Manager, Tower Hotel Management (ECrean@peellandp.co.uk)  " ["_wysiwyg_content"]=> string(19) "field_5b759cab38807" ["wysiwyg_widgets"]=> string(0) "" ["_wysiwyg_widgets"]=> string(19) "field_5b759cab3883c" ["wysiwyg_widgets_copy"]=> string(0) "" ["_wysiwyg_widgets_copy"]=> string(19) "field_5f6ca606650a5" ["read_more_display_type"]=> string(9) "automatic" ["_read_more_display_type"]=> string(19) "field_5d9369165835e" ["misc_excerpt"]=> string(116) "A Collaboration comes to fruition with the opening of the Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire in February 2021" ["_misc_excerpt"]=> string(19) "field_5d9499d65b85c" ["misc_thumbnail"]=> string(4) "3199" ["_misc_thumbnail"]=> string(19) "field_5d949a055b85d" ["misc_include_share"]=> string(1) "1" ["_misc_include_share"]=> string(19) "field_5e9eec4c68840" ["_yoast_wpseo_content_score"]=> string(2) "30" ["_yoast_wpseo_focuskw"]=> string(11) "Keele Hotel" ["_yoast_wpseo_title"]=> string(89) "Courtyard by Marriot Hotel, a Collaboration %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitename%% Hotel on Campus" ["_yoast_wpseo_metadesc"]=> string(137) "Opened in feb 2021 the Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire Hotel with 150 bedrooms is a welcomed addition to the university campus." 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It’s almost two years since the announcement of the collaboration between Keele University and Tower Hotel Management, to deliver the 150-bedroom Courtyard Hotel Keele Staffordshire, which opens on February 1st 2021.  Whilst most ventures of this nature will see challenges throughout the build, this project has had the additional challenges of managing a new build during a pandemic and the obstacles COVID-19 placed on the project. This said, the introduction of the hotel on Keele University’s Science and Innovation Park will open new doors for Keele University Events and Conferencing, which will now be able to offer year-round residential conferencing, with four-star bedrooms, in addition to the summer vacation accommodation through the commercial letting of the 2,000 student bedrooms to host a plethora of domestic and international conferences. We asked both Tower Hotel Management and Keele University Events and Conferencing to share with us the partnership and opportunities as a result of the collaboration. What key benefits do you feel there are working in partnership with Keele University Events and Conferencing? By partnering with Keele University Events and Conferencing, we will be able to offer quality and reliable accommodation for visitors whether that be visiting family, attending a conference, wedding or attending a graduation. The hotel will support the University and increase the likelihood of events that span a longer period which requires attendees to stay overnight. The Scholars Restaurant and The Campus Coffee Shop serving Starbucks will create more community in the area and bring students, visitors, and business travellers together. For Keele University Events and Conferencing, we now have the opportunity to promote year-round residential conferencing which offers four-star accommodation a short walk away from the historic Keele Hall, as well as offering overnight accommodation for our banqueting and event clients. We will also have the opportunity to bring some outsourced accommodation back onto the Campus with the hotel, which potentially offers greater flexibility for courses in their programme timing. How do you feel academic venues can benefit by offering a Hotel Brand within their portfolio? By offering a hotel brand, you’re automatically bringing an established audience on to campus – those who are familiar with staying with that brand for business or leisure. Hotel brands often bring with them services such as marketing and PR support, which will further the reach for the academic venue and creates a new USP for prospective students and their families. What key benefits will clients benefit from when choosing Keele University Events and Conferencing as their conference venue and hosting accommodation at Courtyard by Marriott? We believe clients are looking for a ‘one stop shop’ to provide all their conference and event needs, working with one event manager who can advise on aspects of preparation and be alongside them on the day to deliver the event.  Simplicity of event planning is key:
  1. Everything is available ‘on-campus’ – event space, accommodation, leisure facilities, extensive grounds, space for networking and socialising.
  2. Located in the Midlands, travelling by road, rail or air is all within easy reach of the campus, and once onsite, delegates can walk around this leafy rural campus and enjoy the flora and fauna.
  3. Varied conferencing space – from small meetings for 10 delegates to international congresses for 1,000, there is a host of lecture theatres, classrooms, exhibition space, labs and specialised areas that can be utilised by clients for their events.
What business objectives do both organisations share to bring to the conference and events market? Introducing Courtyard by Marriott Keele to the campus enhances the University’s facilities for visitors, conference delegates, social events, and students. In addition, we foresee the hotel being popular with leisure guests visiting Staffordshire where there is a host of tourist attractions - from the historic potteries to Trentham Gardens, museums to the world-famous exhilarating Alton Towers, there’s something for everyone! The collaboration will introduce both organisations to new opportunities, how will you realise these opportunities to convert into business? The excellent facilities and reputation of the university, its commercially led Keele University Events and Conferencing and the strong Marriott global brand will open the opportunity to attract both national and international events to both venues. By close collaboration, understanding each other’s facilities, services and markets, we can ensure we maximise on the potential opportunities for the university and the hotel. The commercial team at Keele University Events and Conferencing have over 20 years’ experience in managing events, combined with our hotel team who excel in customer care, we are confident we have the perfect blend to strengthen our position as an award winning and leading academic venue in the UK. What challenges do you think you will face as you open in early 2021? The Coronavirus pandemic has affected the events and hospitality industries dramatically across the world and it is going to take some time to establish a ‘new normal’ and gain the confidence of the public to attend events safely. However, as the hotel is new – we have been able to tailor the interior and cleanliness/sanitising measures to be in line with Government guidelines and requirements. Whilst we are unable to offer pre-opening client visits or on-site meetings at the moment, the hotel open in February 2021, to key workers and those requiring to be on campus. Our team will be speaking to clients and providing virtual tours of the venues and online meetings to introduce the hotel for their business needs.  Marketing your businesses independently and collaborating is a fine balance, how do you plan to monitor this? Both establishments have already started to identify those opportunities that would be a fit for the university and hotel as a suitable venue to host their events, however there will be opportunities for the hotel outside of this within the local market which will be another key focus and in turn may generate new opportunities for both parties. As we have both business and leisure opportunities, we are confident that our businesses will develop many new avenues as the hospitality industry reopens and begins its journey of recovery. When non-residential conference venues are seeking to partner with an accommodation provider, what do you think is key to create a successful partnership? A great working relationship is essential, understanding each other’s products, services, clients, and objectives are crucial along with a shared vision of bringing further residential conference and events to the sites.  Bringing together the joint skills and experience of our two teams provides great peer to peer networking to deliver creative and innovative marketing and sales strategies. Whilst conducting this conversational piece, Peter de la Perrelle, Managing Director of Tower Hotel Management, the hotel operator for the new Courtyard by Marriott at Keele Staffordshire said: “Since we began on site in October 2019, we have been working closely and in collaboration with the Keele University Events and Conferencing team to promote the new establishment and gain a captive audience ahead of the launch. “We would like to thank the Keele University Events and Conferencing team for their continued support, and we look forward to welcoming our first guests through the doors in February 2021.” Emma Woodcock, Head of Event and Business Development for Keele University Events and Conferencing said: “We are delighted to have Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire as part of our commercial portfolio. Being able to offer year-round accommodation to our potential clients will give us many more avenues from which to source our business. As a leading academic venue, we know that this will provide us with even more opportunities to introduce new clients to the exceptional facilities we have across the Keele University Campus. Over the past few months, we have been working with the hotel team on some joint opportunities and know this will continue to grow over the coming months.” As we head into spring and embark on the road to recovery for the hospitality industry, we will be sharing our news across our social media platforms. If you are interested in finding out more about our venture,  please contact Christine Page, Marketing and PR Keele University Events and Conferencing (c.e.page1@keele.ac.uk) or Elen Crean, PR and Social Media Project Manager, Tower Hotel Management (ECrean@peellandp.co.uk)  " ["_wysiwyg_content"]=> string(19) "field_5b759cab38807" ["wysiwyg_widgets"]=> string(0) "" ["_wysiwyg_widgets"]=> string(19) "field_5b759cab3883c" ["wysiwyg_widgets_copy"]=> string(0) "" ["_wysiwyg_widgets_copy"]=> string(19) "field_5f6ca606650a5" ["read_more_display_type"]=> string(9) "automatic" ["_read_more_display_type"]=> string(19) "field_5d9369165835e" ["misc_excerpt"]=> string(116) "A Collaboration comes to fruition with the opening of the Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire in February 2021" ["_misc_excerpt"]=> string(19) "field_5d9499d65b85c" ["misc_thumbnail"]=> string(4) "3199" ["_misc_thumbnail"]=> string(19) "field_5d949a055b85d" ["misc_include_share"]=> string(1) "1" ["_misc_include_share"]=> string(19) "field_5e9eec4c68840" ["_yoast_wpseo_content_score"]=> string(2) "30" ["_yoast_wpseo_focuskw"]=> string(11) "Keele Hotel" ["_yoast_wpseo_title"]=> string(89) "Courtyard by Marriot Hotel, a Collaboration %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitename%% Hotel on Campus" ["_yoast_wpseo_metadesc"]=> string(137) "Opened in feb 2021 the Courtyard by Marriott Keele Staffordshire Hotel with 150 bedrooms is a welcomed addition to the university campus." 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