How to make the most of RFPs, millennials and government marketing opportunities for overseas ventures were among the many engaging features of innovative and inspiring programme at this year’s HBAA Annual Forum.

Over 150 delegates took part in a day at the Crowne Plaza in Stratford upon Avon that had a packed agenda of panel debates, speaker and campfire sessions.

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Transient RFPs propelled a lively debate with challenging contributions from the panel. Moderated by David Chapple from Centaur Media, the discussion provided valuable insight for both hotels and agencies on how to handle this effectively.

A series of audience polls provided unique analysis into the different approaches between venues and agents. While 85 per cent of hoteliers cited their use of dedicated online platforms, such as Lanyon, to the surprise of many, only 9 per cent of agents admitted to using the service.

Jamie Ades of Visit Britain, brought an extra dimension to meeting destinations in his session ‘Adding Value to Support International Event Growth.’ Providing an update on marketing strategy, Jamie offered expert advice for regional venues to help maximise government funding and resources to increase bookings from overseas.


In ‘Venues4Millennials’, Sinead Heneghanfrom Croke Park Meetings & Events and Aoife McCrumfrom Soolnua, analysed what the new generation of delegates expect from an event. Event attendees are searching for venues that provide an experiential offering and can demonstrate excellence across three key pillars: food, technology and sustainability.

Variety in offering, flexibility, portion sizing and times are key food trends favoured by millennials, while informal meetings spaces, such as a replicated home kitchen, are becoming increasingly popular. Millennial event planners are keenly aware of minimising their carbon footprint, with demands rising for biodegradable event materials, along with ethically sourced produce.

The Value of Agencies

A debate about the role of agents, facilitated by Hamish Reid of headline sponsor Dubai Business Events was led by contributions from panellists Jemma Peers at Top Banana, Lindsey James from Capita Travel and Events, Ellis Salsby of Ellis Salsby Ltd and Angie Mason from Absolute Corporate Events.. The panel acknowledged that the services demanded from an agent has not changed, but the landscape has, due to the prevalence of technology.

Highlighting the need to add value, the panel agreed that agents should provide a ‘solutions sale’ rather than a ‘facilities sale’ by focusing on the need to create more emotive experiences.

This year’s campfire sessions on hot industry topics such as commission, recruitment, fam trips, social media and the impact of GDPR generated plenty of enthusiastic discussion as well as opportunities to learn valuable lessons from colleagues.

Renowned comedian Marc Hogan closed the proceedings for the Forum with his Edinburgh Festival act. Among the many complimentary comments throughout the day included the team at Silverstone Venues, who enthusiastically tweeted ‘A fantastic day full of interesting discussions and networking, Great closing presentation from Sales & Marketing guru Marc Hogan’.

Louise Goalen, HBAA Chair said:“With a packed programme of inspirational, information and insightful presentations, debates and roundtables, the 2018 Annual Forum truly lived up to this year’s theme of ‘Building on Success’. In addition to a spirited #ForumFest themed dinner and after-party, HBAA members should take great pride in the amount raised for Beyond Food, our charity partner.”



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