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The HBAA’s 19th anniversary – The story of our great Association to date...

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On 1st November 2016, past and present HBAA Chairs met to celebrate our 19th anniversary and to welcome Louise Goalen as incoming Chair for 2017. As we head into our 20th year, we take a trip down memory lane to reflect on the evolution of the HBAA over the past nineteen successful years and recognise the foundations on which this great association has been built.

Once upon a time there were co-founders

The HBAA was co-founded in 1997 by Peter Ducker, Charles Cockell and Mike Thirkettle and was originally conceived as the Hotel Booking Agents’ Association.  It was Peter’s role as the first official Chair to recruit enough agencies in order to give the HBAA its direction and purpose. ‘After the first meeting, we had about 15 members and our initial challenge was to work out a way in which we could engage with hotels at a time that was quite adversarial. Our second challenge was agreeing a code of conduct for the ethical relationship between agent and hotel which both sides could get on board with.’ [Peter Ducker].  At this stage it was an agent-only group, functioning on a tiny budget, hotel and venue companies did not join or contribute directly to funds, but engaged by becoming “signatories” to the code of conduct.

Under their reign the co-founders went on to develop what has ultimately become our Code of Practice, launched in 2014 and which is reflective of the HBAA’s core values; these were beautifully summed up by our first lady Chair, Angie Mason, as “ethical, educational and inclusive.”

More on our first lady and a glimpse of great things to come

The next four years developed in leaps and bounds - our first lady Chair took the helm in 2003 introducing the association’s first five year strategy, with achievable goals clearly set out as measures of success. Under Angie’s reign, the first HBAA dinner was organised and held at the London Hilton on Park Lane. This strategic shift helped pave the way for Richard Eades to successfully introduce structure and business process into the equation as well as concentrating his efforts on raising the profile of the Association.

Through tough times, social calendars and new committees were formed

In 2005, Box Dixon took the reign for two years where the Exchange was successfully launched, Version 2 of the Code of Conduct came about and in late 2006 Bob was involved in the launch of the supplier directory.

The next four years (2007 – 2010) under Tim Gasson, Sue Burgess, Steve Ockerby and Stephen Usher, showed leadership that would see the Association through its inaugural HBAA awards night; deliver the first ‘Know Your HBAA’ seminars; and very importantly, under Steve’s reign, take us safely through the 2009 recession whilst still managing to hold the first Agents CEO dinner and a separate Venue CEO dinner.

Stephen Usher’s year saw the hotels and venues becoming ‘partners’ as opposed to signees.  In his term, we also had the introduction of TOMS regulations and the Management Committee, which was all venue members. This was a mirror of the Executive Committee and all agreed outputs were relayed to the Management Committee before being actioned.  Now of course we have both venue and agents sitting on the Executive Committee together. 

A further five years later, under the leadership of Juliet Price, Chris Peacock, Chris Parnham and Jacqui Kavanagh we start to see within those years a growing social calendar including a speed dating style meeting between 300 agent and venue members; a Corporate Forum and a Finance summit. There’s even a graduate placement scheme set up in collaboration with key universities offering event management courses. That’s not to mention the introduction of BDRC benchmarking for agencies and a change of status for hotels and venues as they became ‘members’ and are invited to attend the AGM  - a true milestone for the Association.

As the sun sets on this glorious 19 years, we see how much can be done by simply going ‘Back to Basics’ in 2016

Finally, it is under the guidance of Leigh Cowlishaw this past year, that all members have been taken ‘Back to Basics;’ to understand and appreciate our heritage as we look to develop and further strengthen our record breaking membership stronghold of 85 agencies and over 220 venue members.  It’s our overarching ambition to be seen as an industry leading association which drives best practice, whilst continuing to provide business tools which support our members through unchartered waters such as Brexit and the new US presidency.  It is with great thanks and admiration that we ask Leigh to pass her shining torch on to our incoming chair Louise Goalen, as Louise continues to lead us on into this wonderful story of the HBAA.  2017 will be our year of ‘Moving Forward’ in line with the five year strategy, taking us towards 2020.

Next year, our 20th birthday, will also see a year of celebrations and continued focus to ensure we are the association of choice and provide value, opportunities and thought leadership to our members and the events and hospitality industry, as a whole.

The HBAA has also given back to various charities over the years and have donated in excess of £275K, which has benefited multiple causes.

The past chairs lunch will be a secure date in the diaries moving forward.

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