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The future of work, the future of commission, the talent gap and the impact of Brexit formed just some of the forward-looking and thought-provoking programme at the HBAA Annual Forum, sponsored by Dubai Business Events.

Opening keynote speaker, futurist Rohit Talwar, started by reassuring the 220 members and partners at the Mercure Manchester Piccadilly Hotel that the ‘failure fatigue’ which is afflicting the world at present will soon be replaced by a more positive global outlook. Looking ahead, he foresaw a fundamental shift in the new way technology and humans will interact. Organisations looking to thrive will need to become ‘future-proofed.’

Julia Mastrogiannaki from the Landmark Hotel enthused ‘The futurism talk was refreshing and left me with plenty to think about.’

Nick de Bois, Chair of industry lobbying group Events Industry Board, who was interviewed by moderator Matthew Wall, assured delegates that he remained cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. He also said that he would like to see the government doing more to encourage MICE business and travel such as reducing visa waiting times and lowering tax on business events.

Industry debates

A fascinating panel discussion - ‘Tackling the Talent Gap’ – examined how to attract the best young people for the future of the industry. Moderated by Samme Allen, the panellists - recruitment and engagement specialist Jenny Royall from Royall, Emma Abson of Sheffield Hallam University, and employers Nick Scott of arrangeMy and Lisa Redding from QHotels - all provided different and challenging perspectives on this important topic.

Highlighting the importance of flexible working, Jenny Royall explained that organisations must create a culture in which staff do not ‘go to work’, they are always there, while Emma Abson drew attention to the need for more employers to offer work placements. Nick Scott said that creating opportunities for career progression was a key issue and Lisa that making the industry an attractive prospect when the UK was at an 11 year low in unemployment was challenging.

The debate ended in agreement that to recruit and retain top talent, venues and agents must create a brand that employees feel connected to and want to work for and that everyone should be proud of what the industry contributes to society and the economy. 

The highly anticipated Great Debate on 'This house believes that the commission based business model has a future beyond 2020,’ produced a lively and heated contest.

Guy Mason from Brief2Event, Chris Peacock of Conference Care and Lauren Goodwin of Jupiter Hotels provided a compelling case in favour, highlighting the numerous benefits such as the flexibility it provides and that as agents are only paid for results, they should be compensated accordingly.

Samme Allen of Sequoia Partnerships and Richard John from Realise spoke against, arguing that variable commission causes mistrust among clients, as do teaser ‘free’ venue finding services. Taking comments from the floor, an audience member described agency commissions as merely one of many models available and that the primary focus should be providing personalised service, with flexibility and transparency.

An audience poll via the bespoke mobile app created for the Forum event showed 79 per cent for the proposition and 21 per cent against.

HBAA Chair Louise Goalen reported that the association’s committees had been making good progress in their plans to move the association forward, highlighting collaboration between members and with other relevant associations as particularly significant.

Expert advice and the RAF

A total of eleven Campfire sessions provided practical and bite-sized expert advice on a wide variety of key topics. The Future in 15 Show Live then followed with HBAA Tech Chair Caleb Parker interviewing Chris Elmitt at Crystal Interactive who had created the Forum’s app. They discussed event mobile apps and their benefits in boosting audience engagement. 

‘Truly inspirational, ‘awesome’, ‘fantastic’ ‘touching’ and ‘the best speaker ever’ were among the opinions on Twitter after closing guest speaker, former RAF fast jet pilot Mandy Hickson, earned a standing ovation. With engaging anecdotes, she highlighted the importance of teamwork while drawing compelling parallels between the pressures of the meetings and events industry and her own career; ‘Dream It, Believe it, Do It’, was her message.

Mandy Hickson was still the hot topic that evening at the spectacular Dinner where £1000 was raised for the HBAA’s charity Beyond Brigade.

Wayne Lamb, Regional Conference Sales Manager at Vue Entertainment was typical of many of the audience in summing up the day saying ‘’The Forum has been extremely informative and definitely worthwhile. Vue Entertainment are new members and I would highly recommend joining the HBAA.’’

Chloe Bennett of Cavendish Venues tweeted; “Absolutely cracking #HBAAForum, so varied with group sessions, debates, panel discussions, guest speakers!!”

For more details, please visit

Grass Roots Meetings & Events has appointed four first-class graduates and a new account manager to service new business wins in the Strategic Meetings Management division.

Beth Seddon, Hannah François and Keertana Gursahani-Khatwani have just graduated from the University of Greenwich, and Helen Travers has come from Sheffield Hallam University. Having been recruited at the MPI Connects event in April, they joined the London office as venue consultants in June.

When asked how they felt to join Grass Roots Meetings & Events, Travers said she was “thrilled”; Seddon already “loved her role”; François was “really looking forward to experiencing all the new venues”, and Gursahani-Khatwani felt “privileged to join such a prestigious agency.”

Jessica Templeton, senior lecturer at the University of Greenwich, said: “The Event Management course is carefully designed to educate and inspire our students and it is often our hope that they go on to develop careers in the industry. For three of them to join one company together is just wonderful.”

Sue Massey, operations director of Grass Roots Meetings & Events commented: “Last week’s HBAA Forum expressed concern at a ‘talent gap’ in the industry, but I can safely say we have no such problem. Through our membership of MPI and attendance at MPI Connects, we’ve built strong links with leading universities and we are immensely proud to have attracted such a high calibre of graduate. I’m happy to say that they are all making great progress through our extensive on-boarding programme.”

Stefani Goodrem became account manager in April, having previously worked as sales and marketing manager at Inner Temple and business development manager at Centerplate. Coincidentally, Goodrem has also recently been award a first-class degree – a post-graduate MA from the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Massey continued: “Stefani has become a huge asset to the account management team. We have never seen someone embed themselves so quickly in the business, and she has already built up a great rapport with her clients, with her vivacious personality and commercial acumen.”


CTI, a corporate travel management company, has announced it has been acquired by private equity investor Endless LLP.

The deal saw the firm, led by Endless partner Mathew Deering with the assistance of Kerry Battiscombe and Jon Duffy, snap up a majority stake in the Manchester-headquartered travel company as mid-market private equity house LDC made a substantial exit.

LDC, which first invested in CTI in 2012 and backed its acquisition of Hotelscene in 2013, will retain a small equity stake.

CTI employs around 125 people across offices in Manchester, Liverpool, Hull, Leeds and Bristol.

Founded in 1983 as TD Travel, the firm is headed up by CEO Clive Wratten, who was once a UK executive of Middle Eastern airline Etihad.

CTI Chief Executive Clive Wratten commented: “I am delighted that Endless have chosen to invest in CTI. To have an investment partner with such a great track record of success is very exciting for the team at CTI.

“The travel management industry is a dynamic sector and with this new partnership CTI will be able to continue to develop its contemporary and innovative approach to the corporate travel market.”

Mathew Deering, a partner at Endless’ office in Manchester, will join CTI’s board.

He said: “CTI is a £77m revenue, top 25 travel management company in the UK with a fantastic customer base and great people.

He added: “This is an exciting opportunity in a consolidating sector and we also intend to pursue bolt-on acquisitions as part of our investment strategy.”

Endless was advised on the transaction by law firm DWF, led by corporate partner Alasdair Outhwaite, and professional services giant KPMG, led by tax partner Steve Heath.

Ashfield Meetings & Events, a full service global event management agency, have added seven new recruits to its UK operations this month. This brings the number of new starters across the agency in June and July to 16.

The new recruits will be based in the agency’s European hub office in Ashby De La Zouch. The appointments have been triggered by new full service event management contracts in the healthcare sector and span several different departments in the business, including operations and venue sourcing.  

The fresh talent have been busy undertaking a comprehensive induction programme, covering all facets of the business. Over the coming weeks the newcomers will continue their on-boarding with role-relevant training on client-specific processes and procedures.

Helen Capelin (Head Of Operational Excellence) commented: “We have had a strong focus on our recruitment efforts in recent months due to new business wins. We have placed a greater weight on character attributes such as motivation, curiosity, engagement and determination. We find that by making selection decisions based around these characteristics we can determine a candidate’s potential and ascertain their adaptability to our company and to our clients’ business environments. It is great to see our efforts come to fruition as we welcome these new starters to the business. We look forward to watching them grow and prosper.”


Alderley Park have launched a programme of more than 20 Teambuilding Activities at Alderley Park Conference Centre and the onsite Sports & Leisure facilities

Ranging from treasure hunts and sports days to conference ice-breakers, these packages can be booked as part of a conference package or as a stand-alone event.

With bookings now being taken the team at Alderley Park will be holding a launch event on the 5th and 6th October 2017 and would be pleased to hear from HBAA members that would like to attend to experience these new services first hand

Alderley Park Conference Centre is ideally located south of Manchester with excellent links to the major motorway network whilst being a short journey from Manchester Airport and West Coast mainline train stations

For further information or to attend the Launch Event please contact Martin Mochan, Head of Conferencing at



The Rezidor Hotel Group is pleased to announce the appointment of Chema Basterrechea as Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer (COO).

Chema Basterrechea has been Chief Operating Officer at NH Hotel Group, prior to his appointment with Rezidor. Chema has worked for NHHG for more than 23 years, as Chief Operating Officer, Managing Director of different Business Units, Senior Vice President Food & Beverage, Director of Integration, Merger Integration Officer and General Manager. As an expert in operational excellence especially during mergers and acquisitions, Chema spearheaded a complete integration of all the different acquisitions: Benelux largest hotel chain, Golden Tulip Hotels, as well as Germany's Astron Hotels and the Italian Hotel Chains - Jolly Hotels and Framon into NH Hotel Group.  

As Rezidor's COO, Chema will be responsible for all operational matters including brand standards implementation, operating procedures, review of operating models and organizational efficiency to improve the company's profitability and brand awareness. He will also identify new market segments and help expand the existing customer base of Rezidor and Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group.

Rezidor's five Senior Area Vice Presidents across Europe, the Middle East and Africa; leaders of Franchise Services, Safety & Security and Food & Drink will report to Chema Basterrechea.

Federico González-Tejera, the new President & CEO of The Rezidor Hotel Group, said: "I am proud to welcome another highly experienced international profile to Rezidor's Executive Committee. Chema Basterrechea is a highly innovative, dynamic and results-driven leader with a strong track record of performance in turnaround and high-paced organizations. He is known to utilize keen analysis and insights, and a team approach to drive organizational improvements and implementation of best practices. Together with the company's business leadership team, I am looking forward to taking the best of Chema's vast experience in European hospitality and dynamic leadership to further build on Rezidor's iconic heritage."

"I am honored to join one of the world's most ethical hotel companies as its COO," said Chema Basterrechea. "With the support of our President & CEO, and the Global Steering Committee, I am looking forward to bringing further organizational advantages to the group's EMEA portfolio, identifying portfolio, people and profitability development opportunities in new markets, and building synergies with our global operations team."

48 years old, Chema is a Business Administration and International Finance graduate of London Business School, IESE Business School, University of Wisconsin and University of Oviedo. He is fluent in English, Spanish and Italian. Chema loves to ski, practices mountain biking, running and riding motorbikes in his spare time.

Chema will be based at Rezidor's Brussels Corporate Office.

Lime Venue Portfolio has been further strengthened by the addition of Kettering Conference Centre. The Midlands based conference centre adds yet another venue in this key location, whilst also continuing to enhance the group’s growing offering of large, purpose built conference and exhibition facilities, which already includes Yarnfield Park Conference & Training Centre, Kents Hill Park Conference & Training Centre and Park Crescent Conference Centre.

Kettering Conference Centre is a modern venue ideal for business events, from conferences and exhibitions, to large scale banqueting, company parties and awards ceremonies. The venue is especially popular with national organisations because of its easy access and central location, and has built up a strong reputation for the quality of its service as well as its value for money.

“We have seen great growth in demand for the Midlands market and were keen to further strengthen our offering, which we have continued to do. Since adding some smaller, more unique venues such as Twycross Zoo, it’s great to now add Kettering Conference Centre, which offers a very different solution,” commented Jo Austin, Sales Director, Lime Venue Portfolio. “This is great news for our customers as it means they have another quality option within our portfolio, in a crucial location for business events.”

“We’re delighted to be joining Lime Venue Portfolio and working side by side with their dedicated  team,” commented Samantha Dyus from Kettering Conference Centre. “We have fantastic spaces within the venue, with capacities of 2000 for conferencing, and 1500 for dinner and like other venues within the portfolio we certainly offer the unusual, including an Arena and a tiered theatre.”

Dyus added: “Lime Venue Portfolio venues have a great reputation within the industry, for being venues that customers can trust to deliver excellent events - something that we are proud to offer.”

The arrival of Kettering Conference Centre adds to what has already been an outstanding year of venue acquisition for Lime Venue Portfolio. The group now stands at more than 89 unique and usual venues located across the UK.



Infotel Solutions has gained the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Set up to ensure companies who work with credit cards do so securely, the standard focuses on the credit card transaction process and is administered and managed by an independent body of major payment cards, including Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

Kimberley Graham, Operations Director at Infotel Solutions, said:

"Following PCI security standards is good business and one of our objectives this year was to gain the standard of PCI compliance. It was important for us to be able to offer this extra level of reassurance for our clients who put their trust in our services, whether that's Infotel, Findmeahotelroom or Findmeaconference. I believe our member hotels and venues will also benefit from this added data security which can only encourage more guests and delegates through their doors. I'm delighted, although not surprised, that today, our booking portals have passed with a top score of A in the Qualys SSL checker. This means clients who use our portals instead of calling our travel and accommodation teams can have complete confidence in our processes, knowing all security standards are adhered to regardless of booking methods."

Robert English, Senior Developer at Infotel Solutions continues:

"The way we accept, process, store and transmit credit card information is done in a secure environment which our clients can continue to trust and rely on. They can also rest assured that we have robust systems in place to guarantee a fast response should any potential data risks or threats arise. Through implementing all the requirements of the PCI standard we have made it much more difficult for an attacker to gain access to data."

Kimberley concluded:

"What is safe today is not necessarily safe tomorrow so our teams will continue to operate best practices in remaining PCI compliant in delivering our services and surpassing clients' expectations."

IWM North, part of the Lime Venue Portfolio, hosted the launch of their new WaterShard event spaces and upgraded HD Panasonic digital projection system earlier this month, attracting over 100 guests across 60 companies.

Levy Restaurants UK and IWM North have invested over three quarters of a million pounds in the new WaterShard development, a 250sqm dynamic, modern and contemporary event space with stunning views of MediaCityUK and The Quays. The room has the ability to divide into three separate areas, ideal for breakout requirements. The space is also equipped with integrated state-of-the-art AV and air conditioning.

IWM Norths brand new HD Panasonic projection system has improved their 360 degree digital theming ability and the projection content looks stunning. Several themes have been created which have been included in the venue’s standard evening packages; from a Manchester City Skyline theme for evening dinners, to a Santa’s Workshop theme for exclusive Christmas parties.

The showcase and networking evening started with a drinks reception under the venue’s famously suspended Harrier Jump Jet where a talented magician WOW’d the guests with his mind-blowing street magic tricks.

Then guests were welcomed to the launch by Sales Manager Liam Potter followed by a video  to show guests how creative and versatile IWM North is as a corporate and private hire venue. The venue has gained a reputation for excellence in hosting conferences, meetings, dinners, awards dinners, receptions, summer parties and Christmas parties.

Make Events, IWM North’s event theming partner for the evening, also presented on how they can contribute to the gallery space with creative theming and entertainment. Guests then sampled a fabulous menu created by the venue’s Head Chef Tony Pickup whilst enjoying a Manchester based reggae band.

“We’ve got an amazing space and some of the most sophisticated AV you can find anywhere, right here in Manchester,” commented Jo Austin, Sales Director, Lime Venue Portfolio. “With infrastructure as good as this, we’re delighted that so many of our customers were able to take the time and come and see the space in person. This is a great event space in an already incredibly popular events venue.”

Focus Hotels Management Ltd, in partnership with InterContinental Hotels Group and developers Percor Capital, has announced the development of two new hotels at a historic site in Dundee.

The impressive refurbishment project will see the Bell Mill and North Mill at the disused former Baxter Brothers jute mill complex off Constable Street transformed into two modern hotels.

Hotel Indigo® Dundee, comprising 102 guest rooms and the 85 guest room Staybridge Suites® Dundee will open in 2018.

Both hotels are only a  short distance from the city centre, just a five-minute walk from the Wellgate Shopping Centre and Waterfront development, and offer easy access to the motorway network north or south via the A90 and A92.

The hotels will form a key part of the Dundee Waterfront regeneration initiative which is driving forward the city’s economic revival. Its flagship is the new V&A Museum of Design Dundee, the first design museum to be built in the UK outside London. Opening in 2018, the museum will showcase Scotland’s rich design heritage as well as bringing V&A exhibitions to Scotland.

The boutique Hotel Indigo will provide a mixture of standard and executive rooms and suites, with large beds, elegant colours, bathrooms with underfloor heating, smart TVs and fully air-conditioned rooms, making it a perfect choice for guests staying for business or leisure.

Designed to preserve the rich history of the site, many of the hotel’s public areas will highlight the site’s former use as a significant jute mill, while also paying homage to some other key themes Dundee is famed for; marmalade, games, fresh produce and the press. A games section will be available for guests to enjoy along with a cosy meeting area called ‘The Den’, a fully-equipped gym, a bar and a restaurant.

Staybridge Suites will offer a range of serviced studios and one-bedroom apartments with full kitchen facilities, including a fridge, oven, dishwasher and all necessary utensils. Like the Indigo, the fully air-conditioned rooms will be furnished to suit both business and leisure guests, with high-quality beds, large desks, strong Wi-Fi coverage and plenty of space to feel comfortable.

There will also be a breakfast area, a small retail complex, a spacious lounge, a laundry room and a meeting area.

The hotels are being created as part of an extensive redevelopment of the former home of one of Dundee’s largest linen dynasties, which began when William Baxter, in partnership with his eldest son Edward, built his first spinning mill on the Dens Burn in 1822. The company expanded to become one of the world’s largest linen manufacturers, employing as many as 5,000 people in the 1870s.

Baxter Brothers and Co was incorporated as a private limited company in 1892 and in 1924 became part of the Low & Bonar group, for whom the firm continued trading as a manufacturing unit until the site closed in 1978.

The architectural legacy of the area is being faithfully restored throughout the restoration project, with the developers working in close partnership with Historic Scotland. One of the bell towers is a listed building that was modelled on the beautiful Santa Maria della Salute in Venice.

Peter Cashman, Chief Executive Officer of Focus Hotels Management Ltd, said: “This exciting refurbishment project will bring much-needed investment into the east end of Dundee’s city centre, and we look forward to welcoming guests from all over the UK and Europe in 2018.

“Both hotels are in an excellent location and the high-quality design, facilities and standards set to be achieved will ensure that our guests have a memorable and comfortable stay.

“With other ongoing projects in the pipeline, we are looking forward to the prospect of growing the Focus Hotels Management portfolio in Scotland.”

Andrew Shaw, Associate Director, Development, UK & Ireland, from IHG®, said: ”The UK is our biggest market within Europe, with 320 hotels and a further 30 in the pipeline. It is great to be working again with our partners Focus Hotels Management as we continue to expand our portfolio of brands to offer guests the right brand in the right place in the country.”

Rob Corlett, Director of Percor Capital, added: “We started this process in November 2013 and it is extremely pleasing to see it now come to fruition. Our aim throughout, has been to ensure that the entire site became fully used for the first time in nearly 40 years whilst maintaining the historic internal and external features of the Mill.  The Indigo franchise, in particular, will work extremely well with this objective whilst also creating significant new employment within the City.  Dundee City Council have been exceptionally helpful and supportive of our plans as we all strived to preserve a Grade A listed building of historical significance within the local community.”

Focus Hotels Management is a leading independent hospitality company with a UK portfolio of 16 hotels, with more than 1,500 bedrooms.

As well as operating independent hotels, including Sketchley Grange Hotel and Spa and Oxford Witney Hotel, the company also operates hotels under franchise agreements with Hilton, Accor and IHG.

For more information, call 01707 266 156 or visit



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