When it comes to South African venues that are capable of hosting the entire spectrum of MICE events to 5-star standards, Fancourt certainly delivers beyond expectation, writes Des Langkilde.
Fancourt, located just 7km from George Airport in South Africa’s Western Cape province, is probably better known for its highly ranked golf courses; The Links (currently No.1 in South Africa by Golf Digest Rankings 2014/15, and 34th in the world in 2014 by Golf Digest USA), and the Montagu and Outeniqua golf courses (both ranked in the Top 20 in South Africa), which is one of the reasons that the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) chose Fancourt to host its Golf Day and 43rd Annual Conference.
One of the challenges that Travel Trade Associations, Professional Conference, Event and Incentive organisers are faced with is finding a venue that is able to not only accommodating their clients’ groups in 5-star luxury, but also to provide high standards in facilities, activities, catering and service.
In this regard, Fancourt certainly ticks all of the selection boxes. And David Frost, the CEO of SATSA concurs; “Our annual conference is an opportunity for members to network among themselves and with non-members, so we wanted a venue that is large enough to accommodate 250+ delegates, with a mix of single and sharing room options, that can cater for both casual and formal functions, and provide activities and excursions for delegate spouses and children. We’re also pedantic about the conference venue set-up – preferring a ’theatre-in-the-round’ tiered seating set-up rather than the conventional class-room and stage setting. Fancourt delivered on this brief exceptionally well.”
Handling the PCO side of the SATSA conference, African Conferences and Incentives CEO, Steve Overholzer added; “Fancourt’s event managers and staff were incredibly efficient and accommodating and no task was too much to ask even with last minute requests. Fancourt’s inhouse transfer and tour provider Tours for South Africa provided airport shuttle transfers for each arrival and departure flight, and their tour coordinator Jaco Freund provided outstanding service to delegates and organisers alike. I highly recommend Fancourt as a top quality conference venue.”
My experience as a SATSA conference delegate and Fancourt guest was equally impressive.
Arriving at the estate’s hotel (driving a Ford Grand Tourneo Connect – read my road test review here), an efficient valet team off loads the guests luggage, issues a parking receipt and parks the car.
After check-in at reception, the valet team shuttle guests by golf cart to their respective rooms. The term ‘room’ at Fancourt is an oxymoron though, as the accommodation is more than just a room, options for which range from 115 rooms in the 5-star hotel, 18 suites in the 5-star Manor House boutique hotel. For larger conferences, The Fancourt Master Homeowners’ Association also offers self-catering lodges on the estate – each resplendent with top class features and amenities.
After the conclusion of the conference, Fancourt’s Guest Relations Officer Corne Lamprecht escorted me on a tour of the expansive estate and facilities. Let’s start with the business facilities.
Conferencing & Meetings
The well appointed Fancourt Conference Centre is located diagonally across from the hotel, and alongside the La Cantina restaurant. The Fancourt Ballroom at 425m2 has capacity for 400 delegates in the Main Hall and 150 in the foyer for pre-drinks or tea breaks.
Meeting rooms include the Kingfisher (72m2 / 40 people), the Grey Loerie (38m2 / 28 people), the Knysna Loerie (34m2 / 20 people), the Grey & Knysna Loerie (72m2 / 48 people), the Owl (71m2 / 50 people), the Eagle (55m2 / 24 people), and the Owl & Eagle (126m2 / 74 people). In addition, there is the Plover Boardroom (47m2 / 18 seats), which is fully equipped for executive presentations.
Fancourt’s expansive grounds provide ample settings to host events of different sizes and orientations, set in lush verdant greenery beneath the Outeniqua Mountains. Previously, a number of iconic events have been hosted here, from the Nelson Mandela 46664 Concert to The President’s Cup, the South African Open, the BMW International Finals, and the launch of the BMW 6 series to the Audi Quattro Cup Finals.
The pristine lawns provide an ideal setting for outdoor music concerts and events, while each event is tailored to meet the needs of the prospective audience from corporate clients to music enthusiasts.
Incentives and Team Building
Fancourt provides an optimum setting for corporate incentives and team-building sessions. With its immaculate landscaping and range of facilities and activities, teams can enjoy business-orientated sessions in a relaxing and aesthetically pleasing environment.
The Fancourt Estate offers a wide range dining areas and private venues for exclusive functions, such as a corporate party, luncheon, gala dinner, cocktail evening or even a breakfast.
There’s the opulent Links Lodge, set in landscaped gardens near the world-class Links golf course, with capacity to cater for 25 to 50 guests; the Ballroom, which provides a blank canvas for corporate events, gala dinners and private occasions catering for 100 to 400 guests; the Club Lounge and Club House Terrace, situated near the 18th green of the Montagu golf course and catering for 36 to 75 guests; the Academy caters for indoor seated functions of up to 60 guests, and is situated next to the golf practice area – a five minute transfer from the Fancourt Hotel reception building.
The Boma (adjacent to the Academy building) is an ideal outdoor venue enclosed by wooden poles with rustic benches for seating 16 guests surrounding the large bonfire pit – the Boma can be used for Braais (BBQ’s), or as a cocktail venue or up to 150 guests.
In addition, there is a Gazebo venue that can be used for functions hosting up to 20 guests, and for larger groups a marquee or Bedouin tent can be erected on certain areas on the estate, such as outside of the Academy, the Club Lounge Terrace, or on the Hotel Driving range.
As weddings are an important component of the MICE industry, Fancourt excels in this niche as well. Utilising any of the aforementioned venues on the 613 hectare estate, Fancourt provides an idyllic setting for wedding receptions and honeymoon celebrations.
Restaurants and Catering
Of course, a review of this nature would not be compete without covering the all important aspect of food. In this regard, Fancourt excels yet again.
Conference delegates are treated to a delectable buffet spread selection, while guests are spoilt for choice with 4 restaurants to choose from. There’s the La Cantina (voted Best Hotel Restaurant at the CXPRESS Garden Route Culinary Awards) with its traditional Italian menu; the Monet’s (opening in Spring 2015 Fancourt’s new local deli serves simple, local and seasonal artisan food); Henry White’s which serves classic European cuisine and represents the gastronomic flagship of Fancourts’ Manor House; and the Club Lounge & Bar for visitors looking to indulge in American club style food.
Fancourt’s award winning wine list warrants mention too, as they’ve partnered with three of the Western Cape’s most acclaimed vineyards: Waterford Estate, Jordan Wine Estate and Graham Beck Wines as well as a selection of exclusive boutique wine estates.
Activities & Facilities
Besides golf, there’s a lot to keep both adults and children occupied at Fancourt. There are four swimming pools on the resort, the most prominent of which is situated outdoors at the Leisure Centre. This area also features an invigorating Jacuzzi and a baby pool for the little ones. Older children are treated to their own heated indoor pool on the lower level of the Fancourt Kids Club, which also has a Teen Lounge equipped with gaming facilities, table tennis, table football, and a pool table.
The Gym located in the Leisure Centre is equipped with a range of Technogym gadgets for cardio exercise and weight training. Specialised fitness programmes include yoga, pilates, stretching classes, express fitness classes and aqua aerobics. The gym also has mens’ and ladies’ locker rooms and separate saunas and lounge areas.
Fancourt also boasts its very own oasis of sensory bliss – The Spa, which is accredited as a finalist in 2014’s Les Nouvelles Esthetiques Spa Awards.
Outdoor activities include Tennis, Fishing, Hiking / Jogging Trails (8-18km), and Mountain Bike Trails (15 – 30km). A beach bus and picnic baskets are also provided for guests’ convenience.
Having ‘been there – done that’, I can only urge MICE professionals to experience Fancourt for themselves. The proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating, and at Fancourt the menu is certainly worthy of indulgence.
To read more articles on the Conference & Events Industry, click on the links below:
Weddings: Stats, Trends & Budgets
Check List for Eco-Conference Venue Selection
Venue Review – Spier