2014 Reunion - Explanation of revision
Revised on November 4th.
It seems every year I have to justify our raison d'être regarding Reunions for those unfamiliar with the details.
I refer to this as a Bridge Club Live REUNION and not a bridge congress, meeting, event or similar title - a REUNION. I make this distinction to define it as an opportunity to re-unite with your friends and partners who you have met online and to make new friends. It is what the club is about - and the REUNION is meant to also facilitate the SOCIAL side of our activities in addition to the BRIDGE. There are many and varied holidays, congresses and so on that focus more on bridge which many of you attend. We do NOT try to emulate these in any way.
We are in the business of Online Bridge and as part of the CLUB MEMBERSHIP we arrange an annual REUNION - it is non profit making.
We also encourage and support local get togethers, one day events, private events and so on - arranged by members for members. Over many years we have used our staff time and my own time to organise these and it is very difficult to please everyone, no matter what. Of course we can do it, and in the past, even members themselves have volunteered to take the organising and hosting responsibilities - but this has fallen off and I can't with integrity expect anyone to take such a responsibility for the event.
Our REUNION format has evolved very carefully to a point where it has a working format that provides what I believe to be the right mix of Bridge and Social activity and opportunities that make the event DIFFERENT. Therefore it will attract ONLY these members who really wish to attend such a Reunion for these purposes.
I am keen to make this an international reunion each year, whether it is in the UK or Europe or some exotic island paradise, and thus attract all our overseas members to each one. To do it more often is simply not possible for us.
We have a well developed format over many years that has served us well and one that provides a 'SPECIAL' event and not just another bridge weekend at rock bottom prices. If the latter is what you want then this is not the club for you or we are doing the wrong thing in our aspirations for you.
I will gladly relinquish all responsibility to anyone willing to take this on and do a better job.
The format I requested for 2014 was a merging from our Main Format we use on our International Reunions, to become the format for the UK. I tried to be careful not to create anything that added a huge price component and also to ensure we maintained as much bridge as was possible ( whereas in our International reunions we tend to have slightly less bridge.)
These are the key criteria.
- A 4* hotel
So, all of the above was initially included. The 2 extra items not previously incorporated when we ran the UK Reunion were to be a special Champagne Lunch as something different, something to raise the profile, something to socialise around. The other item was to be a special Guided excursion to the Shakespeare area followed by a 'Pub Lunch' - again, an opportunity to mix and show those from outside the area and from overseas, something of the country. Many times in the past, on these events, I have seen the cards come out, and play continuing on the bus, boat train or pub - so be it - that is where the spontaneity of the event occurs!
Using Bridge Overseas as our Agent
Firstly, we are NOT a bridge holiday company and I want us to concentrate on what we do best, namely online bridge.
There are seriously big issues about travel licenses, about insurability, about financial stability and holding peoples money legally, about dealing with the VAT man, etc etc.. I am not prepared to do this, nor to take the financial risks that are involved. Let me remind you that most hotels now strike tough terms and contract conditions when taking on board a group. We simply cannot take that risk. The risk gets even higher when we are overseas. Bridge Overseas has all these features as part of their travel company and made available to each and all of us.
We have minimal risk exposure and have passed this to Bridge Overseas who have the purchasing clout that we can never have as they run these all the time and the hotels are far more relaxed in contractual terms as they know BO deliver the goods. This has been proven in our first outing with them in Tenerife and I had nothing but positive feedback throughout. The EBU are themselves entrusting Bridge Overseas for many of their UK and major Overseas congresses, so I don't think we are off course in making this decision for the similar reasons.
I hasten to say, I am not responsible in any way for the pricing, only in giving the direction to Bridge Overseas to make it as attractive as possible to all comers. We work in partnership with them and demand that they give value for money - if they don't or are unable to obtain the right rate we have to look elsewhere. However they have proven themselves so far and if we enter a partnership we work to improve that partnership and not abandon it at the first hurdle.
Over the last 5 years, the cost of the events we organised was getting higher and beyond the reach of many - and that is when I made the decision to change. Take a look at the comparisons for the basic 3 day event, all converted to 2013 Prices.
It takes no rocket scientist to see we achieved a huge reduction at Tenerife AND on top of that, it was all inclusive - Zero cost for drinks - a very attractive feature!
Response to Criticisms
I have carefully read all the comments and criticisms in this thread and wish to clarify some of the comments. One has to be very careful not to compare apples with lemons in many of the comments. Many of the criticisms made were totally unfounded.
Is there an alternative?
No - I believe the best solution is to use a Specialist Bridge Holiday company who know that niche business.
As part of my research I also looked at the use of University locations which have tempting accommodation at relatively high quality along with reasonable food and conference support structures. They are competing these days for the upmarket conference business. However, you will not be surprised to know that in fact for both places where I obtained comparative quotes, for the same dates, they came out SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER then at the Chesford Grange Hotel. One would need to then add the Bridge elements on top of these prices, to make a direct comparison.
Location A: 24 Hour Delegate Rate- £85 or £95.00 per person plus VAT(according to Quality of Food) Thus, 3 days= £306/£342 inc VAT
Location B: 24 Hour Delegate Rate- £115 Single or £95 in a Double per person plus VAT Thus, 3 days = £342 plus £72 Single supplement inc VAT
In the recent tightening financial climate since 2011, I took the decision to have only 1 official reunion a year, but to make it a memorable one, and a quality one. Our policy is NOT to do it a the cheapest place, with a lower quality of accommodation and/or food but rather to provide a Luxury location for everyone to look forward to at the best possible price we can get. I can assure you that from feedback over the years, Accommodation and food is an IMPORTANT ingredient in making the event memorable.
When we looked at returning to the Hinckley Hotel, I was clearly told that the prices would be hiked about 30% over what we had in previous years. Add that to the growing number of complaints about the hotel along with that fact that the Hotel had changed hands several times - it was no longer good for us.
The 2014 UK Reunion is cancelled in the current format due to lack of uptake and interest.
The 2014 REUNION is now REOPENED in a new format!
We expect a large attendance - so let's make this the biggest and the best - for all of us!