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Blenheim Palace overhauls strategy for luxury and corporate outlook

Oxfordshire-based Blenheim Palace has given its business strategy an overhaul to shake things up at the venue, as it makes a key play for luxury, corporates and tourism.
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Blenheim Palace is in the midst of its outdoor Christmas at Blenheim exhibition, which is part of an extended events calendar that will ensure the venue remains open all year through.

This comes as Blenheim Palace has done well to attract high customer retention and repeat visits from Brits and international tourists alike. According to head of marketing Stephanie Hendley, 2016 marks a first in terms of a real festive focus at Blenheim.

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“Traditionally we have decorated the Palace for our visitors and led seasonal tours. In the last two years we have staged contemporary art exhibitions, which have presented Blenheim Palace in a new way,” she said.

“This is the first year that we have really set out to target the Christmas and winter market.

“This year we are open all year round and have therefore chosen to invest in a new and immersive Christmas event that will offer an incredible experience for our visitors. It will showcase the versatility and magic of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.”

Christmas at Blenheim Palace

I experienced the impressive afternoon tea offered at the Orangery restaurant before walking the Christmas at Blenheim trail

Blenheim Palace CEO John Hoy claimed being “more commercially astute in our visitor experience” will result in more revenue, ergo more investments into restoration, conservation and events.

The wonderland, which takes visitors on a tour through the sweeping Blenheim Palace grounds, opened on 25 November and will come to a close at 2 January. It boasts everything from fire garden and singing trees to mulled wine and roasted chestnuts.

For those who prefer their grub a bit more upmarket, however, then they pleased to know a new head of corporate hospitality catering, Chris Rees, has been appointed at Blenheim Palace.

The hire is in a bit to continue building its rising reputation as a premium hospitality venue, with Rees’ previous places of work including Windsor Castle and the Natural History Museum. Elsewhere, he trained with Michelin-starred chef Richard Shepherd.

He said: “I am very much looking forward to drawing on all my experience in hospitality to help maintain and build on Blenheim Palace’s reputation as a world class visitor attraction.”

Wasting no time in the position, he has already increased availability of the site’s Orangery restaurant. The Orangery opened in February of this year and luxury supplier Searcys is responsible for catering, drawing upon its experience of running restaurants at the likes of The Gherkin.

The Orangery Blenheim Palace

A new CEO will help shape the Blenheim Palace vision in 2017

As of 3 January 2017, the Orangery will be opened for business bookings to increase the number of corporate events, product launches and celebrations that take place there.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney is well aware of the venue already, of course, having used the Orangery to unveil the new £5 note, which features Winston Churchill – who was born at Blenheim Palace.

“Extending the venue hire options of this space means that we can offer more flexibility to our business clientele,” said Rees.

Carney’s £5 note reveal was followed by an afternoon tea that was served to some 300 guests. Elsewhere, the Marlborough Room can be found hosting private dinners, while three-courses can be consumed in the Saloon, making Blenheim Palace’s ability to host up to 500 guests a varied one.

However, the most notable change to take place at Blenheim Palace will see a change at the top as finance director Dominic Hare will take over from current CEO Hoy.

Having spent ten years in corporate finance and worked at Blenheim Palace since 2003, Hare will step into the hot seat at the start of 2017. He called Hoy a wonderful leader, great friend and mentor.

“He has helped build this Estate into a thriving business which is winning in so many areas – record visitor numbers, record numbers of new houses being built, record mineral water volumes, record planning consents, record levels of restoration and a pipeline of success still to come,” said Hare.

“I am looking forward to building on the success John has achieved for the business and exploring the new opportunities which lie ahead.”

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Zen Terrelonge

Zen Terrelonge is the deputy editor of Real Business, specialising in media, innovation, technology and the digital sector. A media professional with eight years worth of experience he has worked for both startup and established publications.

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