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NFAN annual conference success continues at 2013 event

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THE National Farm Attractions Network (NFAN) held its annual conference and trade show at Drayton Manor Theme Park in Staffordshire on February 5th. and 6th., the event once again enjoying strong support from operator and trade members from throughout the UK.

Following the successful extension of the conference in 2012 to two days, day one of this year’s event saw visits to two farm parks, the first to National Forest Adventure Farm in Burton upon Trent and the second to Hatton Farm Village in Warwick. The former is one of the newest farms in the UK, featuring large indoor and outdoor play areas, a large tea room and a lively seasonal events programme, while the latter is a fine example of an all-weather countryside experience, blending a traditional farmyard and huge indoor play barn with lively daily shows and activities.

The main conference took place the following day with a programme that covered a wide range of subjects of key importance to the rural and countryside attractions sector. NFAN Chairman Matt Heast commenced proceedings with a welcome to attendees before introducing the first speaker, Deirdre Wells, OBE, head of tourism, Department of Culture and Media Studies. She spoke of a number of priorities that had been put in place by the Secretary of State for the DCMS that would benefit the rural attractions sector, including countrywide broadband and mobile infrastructure, the GREAT campaign for promoting the UK as a tourist destination and the Olympic Legacy.

Mrs. Wells noted that the reason for so much activity from her department was that ‘tourism is all about growth’ and that ‘from a government perspective all departments realise how important tourism is to the economy.’ She discussed the government’s campaign to invest in inbound tourism as well as ‘holidays at home’ and gave examples of initiatives and funding from the DCMS and other parts of government for the tourism sector. She concluded by noting that the tourism sector was growing significantly compared to the rest of the economy.

Mrs. Wells’ keynote was followed by the presentation of some of the annual NFAN awards (see full list of winners attached), after which representatives from the winner of the Best in Education award, Barleylands Farm in Essex, presented on educational days and various ideas for these. This was followed by a session entitled Catering – how good food can enhance your reputation and your bottom line, by the winner of the Best Food and Beverage award, Sally Jackson from the Pink Pig Farm in Lincolnshire. Stephen Holland from Just-Inspire Ltd. then gave a presentation entitled Top ten tips for staff recruitment to close the morning session.

The afternoon began with a presentation entitled How to maximise your return from a Halloween event with Stuart Beare from Tulley’s Farm, followed by a presentation on Countryside tourism – the global perspective, from the Chief Executive of Visit England, James Beresford.

The NFAN Farm Attraction of the Year Awards 2012 were then presented, the overall winner being Odds Farm in Buckinghamshire. The runner up was Bocketts Farm in Surrey, while highly commended was Cannon Hall Farm, South Yorkshire.

The trade exhibition held alongside the conference this year hosted approximately 50 companies promoting a variety of products and services, from children’s play structures and costume characters to retail goods and ticketing and insurance services. And once again it was a very worthwhile event for those involved.

“This is the fourth year we have attended the NFAN conference and it continues to be a very useful event for us,” noted Phil Pickersgill, MD at Innovative Leisure. “This year we were particularly focussing on our Sky Trail High Ropes Courses and the recently introduced Sky Tykes (winner of best new product at IAPPA 2012), a low level ropes course for children as young as two years old. This, in conjunction with the higher Sky Trail High Ropes Courses designed for anyone over a metre, offer a great option for venues aimed predominantly at families or those looking for a unique adventure attraction. We think they have excellent potential in such locations!”

For fellow exhibitor Robbie Toys, Dave Stephens commented: “Robbie Toys has found the NFAN conference and exhibition invaluable over the years as a means of customer feedback for its products. Furthermore, the two day conference gives us even more time with delegates in an open, relaxed environment to discuss current and future requirements, which can help us with our product sourcing and development. A huge positive for our company is that NFAN were actively promoting e-commerce to the delegates, and this is an area that we feel we can work with members to expand the range and volume of current business to the mutual benefit of our companies.”

Rob Marsh, Group MD at insurance broker Marsh and Company, a gold conference sponsor, said: “As joint sponsors for the fifth year running we find the NFAN conference a perfect venue for not only meeting prospective new customers, but equally we find we are now meeting with our existing clients and discussing their requirements. The conference certainly continues to contribute to the success of the NFAN Insurance Scheme and we look forward to supporting many more in the future.”

The event was also supported by fellow gold sponsors Davies & Co. Chartered Surveyors and toys and gifts supplier S. Gregory, while other supporters were OmniTicket Network, Agility Marketing and Unique Catering and Management Services Ltd.

For further information please contact the National Farm Attractions Network on 01536 513397, email info@farmattractions.net , or visit www.farmattractions.net

National Farm Attractions Network

Farm Attraction of the Year Awards 2012

Unsung Hero Winner – Catherine Tozer, Pennywell Farm
Joint runners up – Pat McEvoy, Fishers Farm Park, and Ken Davies, Cantref Adventure Farm

Best Trade Supplier Winner – Serigraphia Digital Ltd – Willows Farm Village

Best in Education Winner – Barleylands Farm
Highly Commended – Broomhouse Farm, Rand Farm Park and Kent Life

Best Website Winner – Willows Farm Village
Runners up – Mead Open Farm (2nd) and Noah’s Ark (3rd)

Best Food and Beverage Winner – The Pink Pig Farm
Runner up – Fishers Farm Park

Customer Service Excellence Winner – Walby Farm Park
Runners up – Hall Hill Farm and Wroxham Barns

Farm Attraction of the Year Winner – Odds Farm Park
Runner up – Bocketts Farm Park
Highly Commended – Cannon Hall Farm

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