Move over The Apprentice – tourism students impress conference centre with their business pitch

Date 2.03.2017

A leading conferencing venue has turned to a group of University of Northampton students to help boost the number of business meeting bookings.

While Highgate House is doing a brisk trade when it comes to conference, events, wedding and hotel room bookings, the venue’s one and half-day business meeting bookings have declined.

Management at Highgate House enlisted the help of seven International Tourism Management undergraduates to look into the reasons behind the drop in bookings, and to come up with solutions.

For their initial research, Alicia Winfield-O’Hare, Christina Donnelly, Irena Pupelyte-Trout, Laura Beth Horton, Leon McAnally, Lorna Grace Owens and Mahmudul Hasan spent a day at the venue, in the village of Creaton, eight miles north of Northampton.

After sampling the facilities and service, they then conducted market research, quizzing Highgate House clients and local businesses and finding out how the venue compared to other conference centres.

Their recommendations included greater promotion of day businesses on social media, including Highgate House’s TripAdvisor page; targeted advertising; promotion of special meeting packages and strategically placed signs in the local area to raise awareness of the venue.

Their findings were presented to Highgate House general manager, Paul Williams, who said: “When I see the candidates on The Apprentice television programme giving their presentations, they are often awful – these students showed how it should be done, they were cool, calm and collected.

“It was a first-class presentation – it was very clear they worked incredibly hard on their research and how they were going to present their findings to me. Everything they said was backed up with data, there was nothing they missed and they came up with some excellent recommendations.

“We have a great social media presence at Highgate House, but the students felt we ought to be publicising our half-day meeting facilities more on social media, which is something we’ll certainly be doing.”

Student Irena Pupelyte-Trout said: “Highgate House’s product is fantastic, and with a few simple steps we are confident the venue will be able to increase its profile within the business community, which should, in turn, increase bookings for its day conferences.”

Senior Lecturer, Angela Anthonisz, said: “The students were incredibly impressive in the way they went about their work. They really enjoyed spending time sampling the Highgate House conference experience, which helped them to really understand the project they were working on. I’ve seen the group’s confidence grow as the project progressed and I am sure this ‘real-world’ experience will stand them in good stead for a successful career.”