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Staff shortages prompt HBAA to call on event planners to be flexible on SLAs

HBAA, the trade association for the UK meetings, events and accommodation industry, is calling on event planners to be flexible with venues on service-level agreements (SLAs) whilst the sector works towards recovery.

HBAA is calling for greater flexibility, understanding and even a revision of existing SLAs as some venues nationwide are facing severe staff shortages while dealing with a huge rise in enquiries/bookings – and yet confirmations still remain low.

Juliet Price, Consultant Executive Director of the HBAA, explained: “Many venues and businesses in our sector are opening and ready for business. However, the length of lockdowns, furlough hangover, redundancies, Brexit-related workforce departures and visa issues plus the lack of contracted bookings has led to significant numbers of people leaving key positions, resulting in a severe shortage of staff across the sector. Coupled with employees testing positive for Covid or being required to self-isolate, businesses are under immense pressure when faced with a surge in enquiries, bookings and the overwhelming demands of large-scale reopening, without any immediate income.

“The knock-on effect is also being felt within other parts of the supply chain. Agencies experiencing a slow response from some venues are struggling to maintain their service levels to customers.

“At present, with the ongoing changes to government guidance, customers may require more handholding and assurances as we reignite their confidence around meeting in person. Venues are now also having to take time to re-evaluate capacities, catering options, delegate flow and indoor/outdoor facility options.  This adds pressure all round and has an impact on SLAs. It is vital that planners are open to temporarily adjusting SLAs during this challenging time and important for event organisers to understand that communication channels and response times may vary.”

No matter what the issues, maintaining communications is essential. As Gareth Warnock, HBAA venue sector advisor and Group Sales Director of De Vere said: “We are working hand in hand with our customers, supporting them and giving them the detailed answers to any queries they may have with regards to their bookings.”

Gareth adds: “We’re seeing signs of movement in the meeting and events sector, and we hope this increases as Step 4 of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown in England comes into place. Consumer confidence appears to be shifting in the right direction, which everyone in the hospitality industry sees as a positive; we hope this continues throughout the sector as the nation continues to move towards unlocking.”

Louisa Watson, HBAA venue sector advisor and Director of Marketing at Wyboston Lakes Resort commented: “We all want it to be ‘business as usual’ and we are going in the right direction to get the sector back up and running and vibrant in its approach.  Challenges come with the ongoing changes in restrictions and uncertainty that creates. But enquiries are coming in and the appetite for face-to-face meetings is strong. Collaboration with agents and bookers is key to building back better together.”

Severe staff shortages and difficulties with recruitment are at the root of the challenges that venues are facing, and HBAA has recently been outspoken in supporting campaigns for the temporary relaxation of post Brexit visa regulations to help provide a short-term solution.

Juliet Price adds: “HBAA has been highlighting for many years that the UK’s reputation for high quality service in the meetings and events sector was in danger unless the imminent shortage of trained staff was addressed. The ‘perfect storm’ of Brexit, pandemic-induced redundancies, Covid-related absenteeism, furloughing and a lack of income during lockdown is creating a harsh reality for our industry.”


Visitor registration is now open for the UK’s leading show that brings together the events, meetings and incentives industry to source, learn and network.

The Meetings Show, which takes place live at London’s ExCeL as well as virtually on 30 September and 1 October, offers a tailored programme designed for visitors to maximise their time as they reconnect, create new collaborations and gain inspiration.

Exhibitors from around the world, including destinations, destination management companies, conference centres, venues, hotels and technology suppliers, will be on-hand for face-to-face and virtual meetings with buyers.

An inspiring education programme, thoughtfully curated by The Meetings Show’s new conference and content manager Erica Oghoghorie and delivered live and streamed, will provide support and insight to event professionals as they set out to rebuild the industry.

The show will also provide ample opportunities for networking, both in-person and virtually to reunite those across the sector and help them forge new connections

Jack Marczewski, event director for The Meetings Show, said: “After such a turbulent 18 months, we are incredibly excited to bring The Meetings Show to ExCeL and virtually on 30 September and 1 October so we can reunite the industry and provide valuable opportunities to aid its recovery.

“Nothing beats the power of live events where new connections and collaborations are formed, so we’re really excited to be able to welcome and facilitate those all-important face-to-face meetings in a secure environment featuring enhanced cleaning and hygiene protocols alongside other safety measures such as social distancing.

“We have a packed education programme organised, hundreds of exhibitors, including Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau, Visit Belfast, Hard Rock Hotels, Center Parcs, Shocklogic and Cvent signed up and ready to exhibit, networking opportunities being created and many other exciting features planned, so we recommend registering now so you can start to plan ahead for what will no-doubt be a very busy and productive event.”

To register for The Meetings Show’s 2021 visit


Hoteliers in Bristol welcomed this week’s announcement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson that ‘Freedom Day’ is set to happen on 19 July.

Mr Johnson said the country is on track to reach the next milestone on the ‘roadmap to recovery’ and that most lockdown restrictions will be lifted.

It means face masks will no longer be legally required, social distancing rules will be scrapped, table service rules are bars and restaurants will end, drinks at the bar will return and the limit on the numbers of people able to attend weddings will also be lifted.

Raphael Herzog, chair of the Bristol Hoteliers Association (BHA), welcomed Mr Johnson’s announcement.

He said: “It’s time to re-open. As the Prime Minister himself said, if we don’t go ahead now, when would we go ahead? We need to live with the virus now and fight it through the vaccine and through people using common sense.

“It might be that we do maintain some Covid-19 restrictions, to protect not only our guests but our staff, too.

“This includes maintaining a cash-less environment, not entering guest bedrooms while they are staying, which means only cleaning rooms on departure or request, no buffet self-service (table service only), the continued use of sanitising stations and other measures.

“But we welcome the removal of social distancing, which will be the biggest win for everyone, along with the ability to host large conferences and weddings.

“It also means we can start to look ahead and plan properly for what we hope will be a very busy Christmas party season this year, too, as people make up for what they have missed out on in 2020.”

Mr Herzog said the biggest challenge now facing hotels and other hospitality businesses remains being able to recruit the staff they need in order to provide the levels of service customers will expect.

A combination of the coronavirus and Brexit, affecting the ability of Europeans to work in the UK hospitality industry, has left a shortage of staff and businesses are working tirelessly to find they staff they need.

Mr Herzog said: “We are meeting the newly-elected West of England Mayor Dan Norris this Friday (July 9) to discuss the staffing crisis and see what he can do to support.

“We’re working extremely hard to promote the hospitality industry as a sector which offers rewarding and enjoyable long-term careers, rather than short-term jobs for students.

“While hospitality does provide many young people their first step into the world of work. It’s more important than ever to show them that there is a wide range of diverse, long-term, career opportunities and fantastic experiences to be had within our dynamic and diverse sector.” 


“HBAA strongly believes that every industry hit by staff shortages should unite to press the government for visa flexibility, “says Juliet Price, Consultant Executive Director of HBAA, when announcing the association’s support for a Confederation of British Industries (CBI) call to relax Brexit immigration rules to address this issue.

HBAA was also one of the signatories of a recent letter from the Event Industry Forum to the Prime Minister asking for a temporary ease of immigration requirements for this reason.

Juliet Price continued: “HBAA has been highlighting for many years that the UK’s reputation for high quality service in the meetings and events sector was in danger unless the imminent shortage of trained staff was addressed with government support.

“Now our industry is one of many to be facing major threats to service delivery as the powerful combination of Brexit, lockdown, furlough and travel restrictions has created a harsh reality. Attraction and recruitment of new talent is becoming tougher and coupled twith experienced staff leaving to work in other sectors, the issue is compounded.

“HBAA believes that, like the Event Industry Forum, every industry sector should not only support the CBI but also directly call on the government for short-term flexibility on visa conditions to allow EU based staff back to fill some of the vacancies.”

Watford Football Club has become the latest stadia brand to join the Lime Venue Portfolio. In a year that will see the club return to Premier League Football, the addition not only adds to the group’s South-East options, but marks yet another elite football brand for event organisers to choose from.

Lime Venue Portfolio have seen a continued increase in interest, from event organisers, within sporting and stadia venues. The natural makeup of the facilities means organisers have access to large amounts of parking, ideal for those delegates not wishing to travel on public transport, while offering large spaces, in different areas of the stadiums, and allowing events to take place with discreet social distancing.

Organisers are also increasingly keen on aligning their events with local areas, as well as offering regional options for roadshow style meetings. This will be another key factor for venues like Watford, with the club itself also enjoying patronage from some of the biggest names in both football and music; organisers will be able to choose space in the Graham Taylor Stand, as well as the Sir Elton John Suite.

As well as the recognised names, the venue also has space including The View, The Gallery and a Media Suite, ideal for screenings and hybrid events. LVP is the conferencing and events partner of Levy UK, who will implement a new catering vision for both match day and conference and events within the stadium.

Paul O’Brien, Commercial Director, Watford Football Club said: “We’re looking forward to being part of the Lime Venue Portfolio, offering customers our state-of-the-art facility that can match any London venues! We believe we have the right proposition for event organisers that want a taste of London, but in a venue that has the right location as well as space, access and parking. With pitch views and a capacity of up to 250 delegates our function rooms are perfect for conferences, meetings, training days and private functions.”

Jo Austin, Sales Director, Lime Venue Portfolio adds: “We’ve been really buoyed by the appetite for our stadium venues since lockdown easing begun. They work incredibly well for reassuring delegates, something we’re really keen to do; they have big wide spaces, lots of rooms so groups can be separated; and they are easy to get to by car. They also locate a meeting in the heart of a community, again, something that businesses are really keen to do as they get back in touch with their customers and stakeholders.”

Watford FC will join other leading stadiums already within the Lime Venue Portfolio, including; Sheffield United’s home, Bramall Lane; Villa Park, home of Aston Villa; Cardiff City Stadium; Twickenham; the Kia Oval and Edgbaston, all homes to elite level football, rugby and cricket respectively.


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