Agency members react after HBAA hosts first face-to-face meeting for agencies since lockdown

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“There are so many new, more time-consuming considerations that event planners will have to face in arranging meetings under the new guidelines, though this shouldn’t be a deterrent from organising live meetings and events. It’s been a great insight,” said Amy Bewley of HTS as one of the Agent Engagement Committee members and organisers of the recent HBAA Agency Engagement meeting at the Holiday Inn London – Kensington Forum.

This was the first live meeting that most of the agents had arranged or attended since the guidelines were agreed and it drew an enthusiastic response from the 25 agency members and HBAA Board present and 45 who took part virtually.

Beckie Towle of The Events Raccoon supported Amy Bewley’s view adding “This is a ‘Train the Trainers’ event and is really valuable” while Jennifer Houlihan of Dotted Lines Events also learnt a lot from the experience of one of those organising the meeting.

Nick Scott of arrangeMY said; “It feels so much better to talk to people in person, particularly people I speak to quite often. Even while abiding by social distancing, there is a warmth that an online conversation can’t match.” Douglas O’Neill of Inntel commented; “There is an energy level in this room which is much higher than is ever created during an online meeting.”

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Callum McLean of Capita Travel and Events echoed this, “There is nothing better than being face-to-face with people at a meeting” before summing up saying “the experience is boosting our confidence about the reality of attending a live meeting so we can convey this confidently to our clients.”

The event also gave agency members a perspective on the worldwide landscape of the industry, Speakers included Hamish Reid representing the Dubai Convention Centre, Florian Gerdes of Hamburg Convention Bureau, Lindsey Thorpe of Conventions Malta and Cathy Joyce for Melia Hotels.

Julie Shorrock of HTS, chair of HBAA agency engagement committee, said: “In challenging times it is more important than ever for our agency members to get together to share their experiences, stimulate ideas and discuss the best way forward for business. We have continued to champion engagement throughout this testing time and this meeting clearly inspired the confidence of everyone taking part live, with some having the flexibility to join virtually.”

Simon McLaughlin, General Manager of Holiday Inn London Kensington Forum, said: “We have made many changes to our operation in the hotel, which will be evident at the HBAA event. Along with the precautions and guidance we have in place, myself and the team at the Forum have had to change habits, introduce some new ones, which will all make us safer.”

Juliet Price, HBAA executive director, added: “It is vital for the HBAA to lead by example with face-to-face meetings and events to boost confidence and to showcase what is possible. Recovery can only begin if the industry goes out, meets in person and showcases our creative thinking and adaptations. This will help to spark corporate customer confidence in the sector and drive our industry forward.”

The event was part of a new series of face-to-face events that HBAA announced last month to demonstrate its commitment to encouraging the restart of live events and venue visits.

Alongside this, the HBAA has launched an initiative to encourage its agency members to begin venue visits and site inspections and to share their experiences and pictures on social media as part of its #HBAAFuturefit #businessready campaign.

The association’s next event – HBAA FutureFit Live – will be held in Birmingham on 6 October, soon after large events are permitted by the government, and it’s anticipated that many of its 300 members will attend in person.