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The conference and events division of The Jockey Club, Jockey Club Venues, has created a new regional position for Rebecca Sharpley as part of a major restructure of the company.
Sharpley previously worked in communications at Cadbury and The Welsh Rugby Union, and is the former Communications and Marketing Executive of Cheltenham Racecourse.
In her new role, Sharpley will be tasked with the marketing of four racecourses in the south-west including: Cheltenham, Warwick, Wincanton and Exeter Racecourses, overseeing all non-raceday activities and the run-up to a major capital investment programme.
She will also manage all aspects of conference and events marketing, from strategic planning to executional activation and increasing C&E revenue.
"I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to build and champion both the individual racecourses’ brands as well as the profile of Jockey Club Venues,” said Sharpely.

Alton Towers Resorts has been confirmed as a venue member of the HBAA.   

The theme park is a popular visitor attraction for families and thrillseekers alike, but also operates a busy schedule of conferences, meetings and events for private and corporate clients. Alton Towers boasts a dedicated conference centre, which hosts events of all sizes for up to 500 delegates throughout the year; hotel venues including the Emperor's Suite and Waterpark; Theme Park venues; greenfield sites and lawns for concerts and exclusive park buy-outs; and bars and catering outlets.

Alton Towers Resorts will look to benefit from the HBAA's calendar of training, meetings and networking events throughout the year.

Further information about the HBAA's newest member can be found at

Global customer and employee engagement specialists, The Grass Roots Group PLC, headquartered in Hertfordshire, have filed their 2012 accounts and report positive and encouraging results, despite the on-going market uncertainty. 

Turnover decreased in the year by 6.8% to £279.7 million and whilst gross profit declined by 1.5% to £70.9 million the gross profit margin improved by 1.3%. Despite the decrease in gross profit the group was able to show a 12.2% increase in operating profit before exceptional costs which was achieved through cost control measures taken throughout the year. EBITA before exceptional costs also increased, up by 7.2% to £7.4 million, an improvement of £0.5m on the prior year. The group’s cash balance remained stable with the year-end position being £21.9 million.

Whilst the UK businesses continue to be the driving force behind the global Group, 2012 saw much improved performances from many of the overseas operations. Grass Roots Spain delivered record profits in an extremely difficult economy, and the German operation also delivered a return. During 2012, Grass Roots Australia established themselves as a stand-out provider of employee recognition schemes and is reaping the benefits in early 2013. A much improved performance from Grass Roots America has also given encouragement, as has the increased demand in the US for strategic meetings management services.

Grass Roots has experienced a period of significant change in the last year, triggered by the retirement of entrepreneurial founder and leader David Evans, following a period of ill-health. Andy Lister returned to the business in the role of COO, and at Board level new colleagues from WPP were welcomed in order to represent their shareholding proportionally. The UK based events division has also faced substantial challenges with a number of leadership changes.

Focus has centred on ensuring the business is well structured and stable going forward and a new Group CEO, Richard Bandell, has recently been appointed. Jeremy Brown has been confirmed as the new Managing Director for the events division in Marlow, one of four events operations to be consolidated over the coming months into a single Grass Roots Meetings & Events proposition. A Sales & Marketing Director position is also soon to be filled.

The HBAA has announced it is looking to take on a consultant as Executive Director following a review of the association’s requirements for an industry figurehead at its helm to help drive objectives and industry positioning.

The role of the Executive Director is integral to the success of the association, and the successful candidate will be the custodian and guardian of the HBAA’s purpose within the industry whilst incorporating strategic direction as determined by its Chair and Executive Committee. 

Since former Executive Director Peter Ducker’s departure in early 2013, Juliet Price, 2011 Chair of the HBAA, has assisted the association in an interim capacity. This was a position created to assist throughout the transition period, provide continuity to the membership and committees, carry out some of the strategic responsibilities of the Executive Director, and allow sufficient time to make important decisions for the association.

Chris Parnham, Chair of the HBAA, said: “At the beginning of the year, Peter Ducker left some big shoes empty, which, since being appointed interim Executive Director, Juliet Price has been filling extremely well. But, having reviewed the structure of the HBAA Executive Director and its objectives, we feel that the role should be made a permanent one. The Executive Director is the only paid Board position within the association, and the enhanced role reflects the sweeping changes we are driving through this year. It presents the successful candidate with a unique industry position, voice and opportunity to make a difference.”

Candidates must be able to demonstrate significant industry experience at a senior level. The full job description is available from the HBAA’s Executive Office, contactable via

The government is billing the 'event management and related services' contract as a new centralised approach to support the communication needs of central and local government, the health sector and organisations across the UK public sector.  

The Communication Delivery Board, chaired by the minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, will oversee seven communication hubs, and will decide whether to approve any communication spend over £100,000.

In response to this centralised approach, all communication related procurement is now done through the government Communications frameworks. The events framework is set to be decided by December.

The news comes as the government reveals that it has budgeted £237m for communications in 2013/14, according to a report published today, down 17% from last year.

Priorities for the new budget include changing public behaviour on health issues, attracting recruits for the armed forces, helping people understand workplace pensions, the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, the Olympic Games legacy and the UK’s presidency of the G8.

MPI UK and Ireland Chapter is inviting meeting industry professionals to join them at its annual Summer Charity Party. The event will take place at HMS President on Monday July 15 (6pm-10pm).

The chapter’s annual flagship event will provide an opportunity for guests to meet the chapter’s new board members, including in-coming President James Samuel. The party will also feature Tom Griffin from The Mark of Leader, showing industry professionals how they can use the power of stories and storytelling to drive leadership with everyone in an organisation. 

During the evening, funds will be raised for the Presidents Charity – Meetings Industry Meeting Needs, which supports worthy causes relevant to the events industry. From each registration, £10 will go towards this charity and The BNC Event Shows has donated a special picnic hamper as the top raffle prize. To make the MPI Summer party complete, a top London club DJ will be spinning the decks. 

Samme Allen, current president of the UK and Ireland Chapter and head of sales at the Barbican, comments: “The Summer Charity Party is a fantastic opportunity to network, learn and find out more about what MPI can do for you. It will also provide guests to meet the Chapter’s new board members and to thank volunteers for their hard work over the last year. We are particularly delighted to welcome Mark of a Leader and hope industry professionals will take advantage of such a high quality and informative networking opportunity. Places are limited so we advice people to register early so they don’t miss out on this wonderful event.” 

Places are limited so guests are advised to book early. Tickets cost £20 for members and £40 for non members.

There is currently a lot of buzz about one of the most important research studies ever commissioned by the UK meeting industry, and the results will be announced  at 1150 hrs on 10 July, 2013 at The Meetings Show UK at Olympia, London.

Our agency members are invited  to the launch of this study through pre-registering for the Show via or attending through the Hosted Buyer Programme.

The UK Economic Impact Study (UKEIS) is fundamental to demonstrating the importance of the meeting industry in the UK. It is a clear way to provide evidence to the government, business leaders and other sectors that this industry has strong economic value. The funding partners believe the report will be critical in helping meeting professionals position the meeting industry in the wider economic debate and commercial landscape. And, as a result, it will assist in boosting the profile of our profession and secure enhanced political awareness and support for the meeting industry– similar to that achieved by other economic impact studies around the world. 

The results of the UKEIS, which include the direct, indirect and induced impact of meetings, will provide the meeting industry with the tools it needs to demonstrate its value to the overall economy. 

All HBAA  members can also learn more from our headline session on the UKEIS at our Members Meeting at Hilton Wembley on Friday 12th July.

Senior business travel industry figures met in London yesterday for the inaugural Business Travel Market Knowledge Forum, sponsored by Barclaycard, Firmdale Hotels & e-tid.

The event, the first of a series of Knowledge Forums from Business Travel Market, was produced in partnership with Kingley Event Management and facilitated by Michael East, managing director of Eastcastle Management Group.

Tahiyya Jurdine, senior research analyst, Euromonitor International, kicked off the event with a positive update on the current status of the global business travel market. Trends showed a stable industry, with plenty of potential and global growth of 12% to £176bn. She also reported strong growth in Asia Pacific – a recurring theme of the day – as the region looks to become the main rival to Western European in this market.

Further trends pointed to significant growth in the Chinese outbound market and India set to hold the biggest business arrivals volume by 2017. Other issues covered by Jurdine included the rise of Turkey as a market, the growth of corporate cruises, the future of low-cost carriers and the role of technology.

The following session comprised an interview between Michael East and Bob Schumacher, managing director sales, UK & Ireland, United Airlines. The two discussed a number of topics, from the growing trend of joint venture agreements to the global outlook of the business travel industry from the airline point of view.

Schumacher underlined the correlation between business travel growth and the GDP performance of the destinations in which United operates. He suggested that the UK market remained stagnant in a ‘holding pattern’, and underlined the major issue of excess supply within the global market place, quoting the industry size as £710bn but with just a £12bn profit margin.

East continued the conference with a question and answer session with Gareth Warnock, head of worldwide sales UK, Hilton Worldwide. Warnock spoke about consumers’ increasing desire for branded products, as well as the growth of travellers switching from premium brands to more basic products, and vice versa. He also underlined the high volume of business going into hotels outside of travel management companies – some 60% of total corporate business.

Next up was David Radcliffe, chief executive of Hogg Robinson Group, who examined business travel through the eyes of one of world’s biggest TMCs. He also addressed the changing global market; focusing on key factors in trading such as corporations’ determination to save costs, either by not travelling, using video conferencing or consolidating expenditure. Radcliffe reported that although these trends have not changed, there is still a small sign that this may well shift going forward.

The morning concluded with a panel discussion featuring: Jonathan Haseler, head of large corporate sales, Barclaycard Payment Acceptance; Nikki Sutton, UK and Ireland travel manager for Reed Elsevier; Mike Stephens, sales director of Click Travel; and Ruth Spratt, head of sales UK, easyJet.

The panel covered a wide range of subjects including: how much more stripping out of costs can the industry expect or take; the importance of health and safety of travellers from a corporate responsibility point of view; corporate credit cards and how they can be used responsibly and fluidly within the travel industry; travel avoidance; the next evolution for low-cost carriers; travel management 2.0 and the maverick traveller; and is business travel any fun anymore!

The next Business Travel Market Knowledge Forum will be the first of many educational forums at the show, which takes place 6-7 November at ExCeL London.

According to a study by American Express, UK businesses are prioritising overseas rather than domestic markets for growth this year.

The latest American Express/CFO Research Global Business and Spending Monitor, which polled 519 senior finance executives worldwide during April 2013, found that just 17% of UK respondents said they would focus primarily on increasing domestic sales for growth.

This made the UK one of the leaders in looking to capitalise chiefly on international markets, with only Spain (9%) and Singapore (16%) less likely to have a domestic focus.

The report also revealed that UK business leaders remained focused on developed markets for growth: 41% said they would export more to the developed world this year, compared with just 17% exporting more to emerging markets.

However, when asked where they were likely to expand their activities, UK businesses most frequently cited India (33%), China (23%), Brazil (23%) and South Africa (23%), suggesting that in the longer term they would also build stronger relationships with developing markets.

When asked specifically about changing the scope of their work with emerging markets in the next year, 34% of the UK businesses surveyed said they were expecting to increase sales and distribution activity, as opposed to production (20%) and sourcing (17%), ‘proving the enormous impact the rapidly expanding consumer classes of the emerging markets are having on the world economy’.

According to the research, UK businesses will make significant investments in business travel to drive this growth, with 66% expecting to increase expenditure on business travel compared with last year.

Commenting on the findings, Brendan Walsh, senior vice president, global corporate payments-Europe for American Express, said: ‘UK businesses pursuing a growth agenda recognise the huge potential of overseas markets. Clearly, this has led to a willingness to increase investments in business travel in the year ahead.

‘However, in the current economic environment, UK executives reveal a cautious, meaning that we can expect companies to focus on getting value for money and a significant ROI for their investments.’

• April continues to see impressive increases in spending by overseas visitors, 13% more than in April 2012. Following the growth seen in recent months the first four months of 2013 have seen record spend (in nominal terms) of £5.21 billion. Over the 12 months to April 2013 there has been record spend (in nominal terms) of £19.19 billion.

• There was a slight decrease in visits from overseas, 2.88 million visits representing a 1% decrease on April 2012 although across the first four months of 2013 there have been 1% more visits than in the same period in 2012. Across the 12 months to April 2013 visits were in line with the previous 12 months to April 2012.

• April figures were similar to March with both holiday and VFR visits lower than the year before, although again business visits continue to show growth (+8%). In the first four months of 2013 business and VFR visits have been higher than the same period in 2012, both showing the strongest start to a year since 2008. So far in 2013 holiday visits are slightly below (-3%) the 2012 record.

• Record levels of visits continue from ‘Rest of World’ markets (those outside Europe / North America), with visits 9% higher in April alone and 9% higher in 2013 so far.

• From Europe April saw growth only from A12 ‘Accession’ markets but looking across the first four months of 2013 there has also been 1% growth in visits from the major EU15 markets (largely due to a very strong February). Visits from non EU European markets have slowed slightly but remain at a record level over the 12 months to April 2013. 

• Easter may have affected travel plans, with most trips made for the 2013 Easter week-end included in April data as IPS records visits upon departure (Easter Monday was 1st April).

• VisitBritain forecasts that in 2013 the volume of inbound visits will increase by 3% and the value of visits by 2.5%. Available data so far shows an increase in the volume of visits by 1% and in the value of visits by 12% January to April 2013. It should be borne in mind that later months are busier for inbound tourism and the picture may change substantially in the coming months.


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