Q&A: Champagne Sports Resort – Comprehensive & compelling

Champagne Sports Resort in the Central Drakensberg has been around for some time, but only more recently has it become such a serious player in the large conferencing space, by building on its initial offering and positioning itself to service bigger groups. With a host of ancillary services, there is much on offer for the delegate, as explained by Director James Macquet to Business Traveller Africa.

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Q: What types of events are you able to accommodate?

A: Champagne Sports Resort accommodates events across the board, from corporate conferencing, association congresses and exhibitions to sporting events and pretty much any event that requires indoor or outdoor venues for any kind of function.

Q: Have you always been able to accommodate big groups, or is this a more recently-added offering?

A: We’ve always done both large and smaller conferences, but in 2010 we decided to develop the property further by adding venues and rooms so we could continue offering smaller groups the same attention and have the capacity to hold the much bigger conferences and conventions comfortably. With 16 venues, 152 rooms and suites and 91 majority three-bed chalets, the expansion has given us the capacity to hold more than one conference at a time without jeopardizing standards and service, and offer versatility and flexibility. We can conference up to 1,000 delegates at one time with the same service levels and personal touch across the board.

Q: Why is it important for Champagne Sports Resort to accommodate big groups and not just concentrate on smaller events?

A: The conference market in SA is diverse with a wide range of requirements, especially when assessing volumes. There are small business getaways, standard corporate conferences and events, big volume franchise conventions and exhibitions and then the association industry annual events that all need to be accommodated. We have developed a product that can cater for all those requirements, at the foot of the Drakensberg mountains amidst a World Heritage Site. That is totally unique, not only to SA but to the world.

Q: What does having a championship golf course do to the offering and impact on the overall MICE proposition?

A: The 18-hole Champagne Sports Resort Championship golf course plays a big role in the diversity we offer our MICE and leisure clientele. Ranked in the top 30 courses in SA and also as SA’s most beautiful golf course in recent years makes this a big draw card for the resort. The course is used extensively by our MICE clientele for both their own golf events and as a conference downtime activity for delegates. Along with the majority of the resort, the clubhouse has just undergone a refurbishment and is rated in the top five ‘19th’ holes in South Africa.

Q: Overall, what do you believe are your resort’s greatest strengths?

A: Our greatest strengths lie in the diversity we offer guests with their variety of different requirements. Guests are spoilt for choice, not only with accommodation, but also with leisure facilities, which include a spa and fully-fitted gym, kids and teens clubs, six tennis courts, a squash court, five swimming pools, lounges, coffee shops, golf course, an outdoor cinema, trail running routes, expansive mountain biking tracks, basketball and volleyball courts, putt putt and bowling greens.

Q: What do you believe conference delegates and organisers are looking for from a conference venue?

A: They all enjoy personal attention and service at all times and this is critical to our ethos, no matter what size the group.

Q: Where does technology fit into your offering?

A: Champagne Sports Resort offers state-of-the-art equipment in all major venues and free wi-fi in all public areas. We keep up to speed with all new technology that will assist and enhance the conference experience at CSR.

Q: What are your thoughts on the state of the SA conference industry?

A: It is under severe pressure as our economy continues to suffer the effects of our political and economic landscape. The MICE and hospitality industry in general is one of the first to be targeted when cutting back. Equally, technology enables people to communicate sufficiently without leaving the office. But face-to-face interaction cannot be replaced altogether, so there will always be a place for the MICE industry going forward.

Q: What are the biggest issues in your space and how is CSR addressing these issues?

A: Our biggest issues lie in the nature of our location. There is a travel element to getting to CSR so most clients come for two to seven nights. However, being in such a spectacular setting, rarely do we not get the business once the client has visited the resort. Being situated out of town and in the middle of a World Heritage Site, we are finding our return and repeat business growing dramatically, as we are genuinely achieving the objectives required for a successful event.