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Louise Goalen, the new Chair of the HBAA outlined a clear strategy to keep the Association ‘Moving Forward’ in her opening address when she took office at a packed AGM and Kick- Off meeting at the Hilton London Bankside.

With new HBAA Venues Chair Louisa Watson, Louise Goalen announced to a capacity audience of almost 200 members that the HBAA’s strategy to keep Moving Forward in the second year of its five year plan would include updating the HBAA Code of Practice, developing its International Forum, research projects, white papers, surveys and expanding its training activities. Specific focus will be given to engaging with member agencies of all sizes and to making the most of technology. The Association will also be celebrating its twentieth anniversary.

Each HBAA Committee Chairman briefly summarised their Committee’s objectives for the year before Louise Goalen thanked the outgoing Chair, Leigh Cowlishaw, for guiding the association through its “Back to Basics” year, adding; “I am delighted to have been appointed chair to carry on the baton. Along with the whole of the Executive Committee we are relishing the year ahead and delivering on our objectives.”

Anthony Hilton, Financial Editor of the Evening Standard presented his fascinating economic forecasts for the year ahead, predicting an overall positive year for the British economy. However, reflecting on the impact of Brexit, restrictions on the movement of labour and possible skills quotas, he expressed a major concern about future staff shortages in the UK hotel and hospitality sector in which, according to Louise Goalen, up to 70 per cent of current staff are not British. He advised; “You need to start preparing for the future now!”

At the Kick Off meeting and Annual Dinner Louisa Watson spoke about the HBAA’s two-year partner, Beyond Food, an impressive organisation which inspires people who are at risk of or who have experienced homelessness to gain meaningful employment, particularly in the catering and hospitality sectors. The spectacular evening event, enjoyed by 375 members and sponsors, raised £19,500, prompting Poppy Trewhella of Beyond Food to thank the HBAA, adding: “The money will make such a difference to the people we help.”

Louisa Watson summed up the day: “What a fantastic turn out for the AGM, Kick off and Dinner.  I was delighted to be a part of it representing the amazing venues that form part of the HBAA membership.  2017 represents exciting, challenging and changing times for the industry but we will be Moving Forward together!”

ALDERLEY PARK Conference Centre has joined the Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA) – the prestigious trade association for the hotel booking agency, apartment and venue industry.

The organisation was originally formed in formed in 1997 with the aim of improving standards in the hotel venue industry, by addressing common issues and sharing best practice between members. It has since evolved to promoting professional development, nurturing innovation and acting as a lobby group for the sector.

Membership of the HBAA requires introduction and approval by existing members – comprising both agencies and venues – so Alderley Park Conference Centre’s acceptance, less than 18 months after opening its doors to the public, is notable recognition for the Cheshire-venue. The quality assurance afforded by membership means that large corporate booking agencies invariably turn to HBAA venues first.

Martin Mochan, Head of Conferencing at Alderley Park explains the significance: “We’re incredibly pleased to join the HBAA. Membership conveys a genuine stamp of approval from the leading agencies and venues in the country, evidencing our first-class facilities and personnel here at Alderley Park.

“We pride ourselves on securing repeat business through exemplary customer service and the standards we adhere to, along with the values we hold, mirror those set out in the HBAA code of practice.

“As one of the few member-venues in the North West, we’re already being presented with invaluable networking opportunities and it has cemented our relationships with the UK’s leading booking agencies.”

This latest recognition follows Alderley Park Conference Centre’s acceptance to the Venues of Excellence consortium late last year [2016], and signifies the facility’s growing reputation as an international destination of choice in the conferencing sector.

The venue has hosted a number of leading corporate events in the last few months and is situated in 400 acres of breath-taking Cheshire parkland, boasting a 233-capacity auditorium and full suite of video conferencing and networking facilities.

The Brexit-inspired skills shortage is a "big worry" for the UK's hotel and hospitality industry, with as many as 70 per cent of the workforce made up of non-Britons, the HBAA says.

The industry association has promised to start lobbying the government ahead of its Brexit negotiations to help it realise the true impact if free movement of people was to cease.

Speaking at the HBAA kick-off at Hilton London Bankside on Friday, new chair Louise Goalen said while the outlook for 2017 was positive, the workforce issue was a key challenge for the industry.

She said: "If we go for a hard Brexit, we're closing the door for free movement of people and it's going to have a huge impact. We need to act now. The UK is the best in class for meetings and events; we're the envy of the world when it comes to our hospitality standard.

"At the moment, I think addressing the skills shortage is the key challenge for our association. It's a big worry. We're going to be collaborating with a lot of relevant associations and will be lobbying the government to tell them we need this."

HBAA, formerly the Hotel Booking Agents Association, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Also speaking at Friday's event was the Evening Standard's Anthony Hilton, who gave economic predictions for the year ahead, but said overall 2017 would be positive.

In its 20th anniversary year, the HBAA says it will focus on increasing its engagement with members and drive focus on technology. It will also review its code of practice and widen its education offer.

Goalen added: "We need to make sure we're providing suitable training and development across the board."

Hilton said key events that will impact the industry will be the French and German elections, particularly if a Marine Le Pen is elected, saying at worst it could lead to a Referendum on France's membership of the EU and a subsequent withdrawal, triggering a potential collapse of the Euro.

On Trump's election, Hilton called him a "classic bully", but added "I suspect with Trump this year will be OK". He said hype around his presidency would quieten and that it would be difficult for him to carry out any of his controversial policies.

"There will be a gradual lessening of concern, people will find it will gradually wear off and nothing will actually happen apart from his tweeting and it takes, particularly in America, forever for things to get done," he said.

Overall, Hilton said 2017 would be positive for the hospitality industry, with the skills shortage the key challenge.

He finished: "The dollar will be strong because of the general buoyancy of Trump and Europe will probably be a bit stronger assuming they don't screw it up politically, because economically all in all, the picture for the next 12 months is pretty positive."

Applications for The Meetings Show hosted buyer programme are now open. The show will take place from 13-15 June at Olympia London and is now in its fifth edition. Buyers wishing to be part of the programme should visit the website ( to check qualification criteria before completing their application.

Following a successful show in 2016, where UK hosted buyer numbers increased by 11% as part of an overall 2% increase, 2017 will once again deliver a programme designed to allow qualified buyers to conduct business, network, and learn in a format designed to fit around their personal schedule.

Set in the heart of London with superb transport links, The Meetings Show offers buyers a chance to expand their industry knowledge and contacts through pre-scheduled meetings with a constantly growing exhibitor list, gain access to exclusive networking events as well as learning and development opportunities from the education programme.

“With nearly 10% of our exhibitors new for 2017, our well established offering is the ideal opportunity for meetings professionals to gain inspiration and ideas,” comments Steve Knight, Event Director of The Meetings Show.  “Whether you are a buyer from the corporate, agency, association, government or not-for-profit sectors, our wide range of suppliers and partners, along with a focused education programme makes The Meetings Show a must-attend event.”

Alison Roddam from the National Cancer Research Institute said of her attendance in 2016: “(2016) was my first time at The Meetings Show. I’ve been able to meet a number of key venues to form relationships with, as well as current suppliers.  It’s been easy to arrange the day - to be able to schedule appointments allows me to have a structure. For anyone who runs meetings and conferences it's very useful, either to form a picture of an existing event or build something from scratch. There are so many people here who can help formulate an idea and take an event forward.”

Kim Biggs from Cisco commented: “I really enjoyed the show. There was a lot of our suppliers, making it easy to touch base with those we don’t sometimes see because we are too busy working or travelling.  The highlight has been the organisation of the event.  It's made my life very easy, it's simple to come here.  From organising travel to accommodation, the process and website was amazing, easy, fast and brilliant.”

“I like the fact that meetings are pre-planned so you can drop into the stands and feel comfortable knowing they are waiting for you,” comments Tania Hughes of HelmsBriscoe.  “I came to meet with venues and to experience different networking whilst gathering updates on what’s going on in the industry. It’s great to be able to go into the lounge, chill out, get on top of work but not miss anything.  There’s lots of new things going on, it’s great to have the industry under one roof and the socialising is a highlight.   It’s all worth it because I've given out some nice enquiries.”

Individuals choosing fully hosted buyer status will benefit from two days at the show, complimentary travel and accommodation for up to two nights.  Buyers based in Greater London or the South East, as well as those needing to comply with travel policies can participate in the semi-hosted buyer option, which includes just four pre-scheduled appointments per day. 

All hosted buyers have access to the online diary to organise their time at the show in advance, access to hosted buyer lounges with complimentary refreshments, invitations to exclusive networking functions and the opportunity to apply for post event tours.

Organised by Centaur Live (a division of Centaur Media Plc), The Meetings Show is the premier event for the UK inbound and outbound meetings industry, taking place 13-15 June, 2017 at Olympia, London.  Organised by meeting professionals for meeting professionals it is focused around a large exhibition, networking opportunities and professional education.

Sodexo, the world’s largest services company, has unveiled a new structure for its UK sales team within the Sports & Leisure Division.  The enhanced team of sales experts has been designed to create a high-performance sales culture.

The restructure aims to align the teams across Conference & Banqueting and Corporate Hospitality, bringing together these two complementary areas to generate a greater synergy and create a platform to deliver accelerated sales performance and efficiencies across the business.

UK sales will be headed up by Amanda Brown in the newly created role of UK Sales Director. Her first priority is to develop and implement a dynamic sales manifesto in line with the company’s growth objectives with the support of the newly formed sales leadership team.

This strategy is aimed at keeping Sodexo Sports & Leisure ahead of the competitive curve by developing and nurturing its exceptionally talented sales force.

Austin Tilsley, Managing Director, Sports & Leisure Sodexo UK & Ireland, said: “We have ambitious plans over the next few years to grow our business; in order to achieve this we need to have the right structure and framework in place for the teams to deliver.

“We have significantly invested to ensure we have the right senior people in the team and a new structure that will support our strategy for growth. This will also create more regional autonomy and allow the teams on the ground with the local knowledge and understanding of their market to be key drivers moving forward.

“This is an exciting development for the business and one that gives us huge momentum to begin the New Year.”

Kimberley Graham, Tanya Beresford and Susie Christie, Directors of Infotel Solutions, the accommodation, travel and conference specialists based in Lincolnshire, have secured a buyout of its major shareholders as it welcomes in the New Year and looks forward to an independent and successful future.

The long established company, founded in 1989, has offices in Gosberton and employs around 50 people from across the county, working under the well-known and respected brands of Infotel, Findmeahotelroom and Findmeaconference. 

Working with clients from the world of construction, manufacturing, conservation and charities plus independent businesses from across the UK, the recent acquisition reinforces the commitment and dedication from directors to take the company forward, with plans focused on quality of services.

Tanya Beresford, Business Director commented:

"Along with my fellow directors, Kimberley Graham and Susie Christie, we have a combined and impressive 51 years working at Infotel Solutions, with 33 years combined as board members. We have a wealth of experience and knowledge having been instrumental in developing the company from its original hotel information service through to being the true global player it is today. 

With a stable and exciting future ahead, our clients can expect to receive the dedicated, professional service they have come to expect from the teams at Infotel, Findmeahotelroom and Findmeaconference."

Kimberley Graham, Operations Director explained:

"We believe in combining the best of people with the best of technology so we will continue to provide a fast and professional booking service for both our corporate clients and leisure bookers whether on line, through our call centre teams or with our in-house designed Apps.

As Investors in People, we're proud of our commitment to nurturing young talent in the area and will continue to offer apprenticeship opportunities within all departments as well as develop our core teams."

Susie Christie, Commercial Director, said:

"We’re looking forward to expanding our networks and partnerships so we're able to offer clients an increased choice of venues and hotels. We currently work with just over 10,000 UK conference and meeting venues and 900,000 worldwide hotels, which we're predicting will hit an impressive one million later this year."

Kimberley concluded:

"We’re grateful for everyone who has been involved in the past to get the business to where it is today. We have dedicated and loyal people working in the company, many with long service and some newer faces. We're looking forward to working together to successfully deliver our goals and aims over the coming years."

Further to a recent audit by Green Tourism, Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) have once again been awarded Gold status by the certification body, having first achieved gold status in December 2012. 

AECC have maintained the standard through two subsequent reassessments for the sustainable practises employed at the venue and are the only conference venue in the North of Scotland to hold the Gold award from Green Tourism. 

Gill Thomson, Sustainable Tourism Assessor at GTBS, commented: “Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre have done well to gain the GOLD award on Version V of the Green Tourism programme. There are a number of great practices on site; such as push controls on the urinals and excellent recycling points for guests across the site. This site is next to a park and ride facility which is used and promoted well during concerts and events held at the AECC. Boilers have been upgraded within the conference centre and there is a good use of sensor lighting. The carbon report that is produced for all events is excellent to see and an example of best practice within the industry. All in all, a great assessment.”

Graeme Cumming, Interim Managing Director at AECC, commented: “It is testament to the work of our staff and visitors that we have maintained the Green Tourism Gold award.  Sustainability is part of the ethos at AECC; this award along with our ISO 20121 accreditation puts us on a strong footing as we look towards the new venue, set to be the most sustainable venue in Europe when it opens its doors in 2019.”

The ACC Liverpool Group has achieved its highest annual turnover since opening in 2008.

The company, home to BT Convention Centre, Echo Arena and Exhibition Centre Liverpool, delivered a turnover of £17.2m, compared to £16.1m for the previous 12 month period.  Figures are based on audited accounts for the year ended 31 March 2016.

During the same period, 210 events took place attracting more than half a million delegates and visitors.  A total of £128m in economic benefit was generated for the Liverpool city region, bringing the overall economic impact to more than £1.2bn since the complex opened.

Conference highlights included NHS Confederation, the British Psychological Society and a series of international congresses while Sir Paul McCartney, Strictly Come Dancing and the launch of the Liverpool International Horse Show were among entertainment events.  Exhibition Centre Liverpool, the latest addition to the campus which opened in September last year, hosted 19 exhibitions including MCM Liverpool Comic Con, The Liverpool Wedding Show and RenewableUK.

The figures recorded by The ACC Liverpool Group show an operating loss of £2.7m.

Bob Prattey, chief executive of The ACC Liverpool Group, said: “The financial year from 2015 – 16 was a year of rapid growth for The ACC Liverpool Group with the opening of Exhibition Centre Liverpool in September 2015 and Pullman Liverpool in February 2016.  This expansion has enabled us to enhance our facilities and host bigger and better exhibitions, national and international conferences and entertainment events, thus contributing more economic benefit to the local economy.

“The operating loss we are reporting 2015 – 16 is due to the delays in the completion of our new venues.  We incurred extended pre-opening costs which were set against only part year trading – in the financial year 2015 -16 the hotel only traded for 50 days and Exhibition Centre Liverpool for six months. 

We are forecasting a further increase in revenues and a return to overall group trading profit as we retain existing events and bolster the programme with major events such as the British Style Collective presented by The Clothes Show.”

Events during the current financial year 2016 – 17 have so far included the International Festival for Business, the Labour Party Conference, the European Association for International Education, Elton John and Rod Stewart.  The return of the International Horse Show, BBC Worldwide Showcase, Bruno Mars and MCM Liverpool Comic Con are among forthcoming highlights.  ACC Liverpool was recently announced as principle venue and official partner of ‘British Style Collective presented by Clothes Show’, which is set to take over the city of Liverpool in July next year.

Mr Prattey added: “We continue to build on the success of previous years.  Despite our operating loss we have achieved our highest ever turnover and are predicting further revenue growth and a return to profit.  We are looking forward to another busy year of national and global conferences; public and trade exhibitions and entertainment events.”


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