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The Chancellor’s grants are in principle, welcome. But we wait to see the ‘small print’ to see how many of our 200 plus member organisations will be eligible for them. £6,000 may be helpful to small businesses but it won’t sustain larger venues or agencies with greater liabilities and no appreciable income in sight for most of Q1 next year.”

To launch a new business networking venture during a global pandemic is no mean feat however, Sheila Kelly-Trow together with Unique Venues, Birmingham have successfully created a vibrant network for Birmingham businesses in just six months. Since its inception, Birmingham’s Unique Network (BUN) has aimed to bring together the best of Birmingham’s local businesses in order to create a group of well-connected business leaders who are able to meet and network together, raise their profiles, gain business insights, and offer mutual support.

The BUN networking lunch events take place monthly at different venues across Birmingham, showcasing the best hospitality venues and bringing together an exciting mix of business leaders to give them each a chance to further develop working relationships with old and new colleagues. Each event offers informal networking, a sit-down lunch and a prize draw which is highly popular. Local businesses have donated many generous gifts. Each event also has its own event sponsor which is an opportunity for a local business to showcase their expertise whilst creating new relationships.

Since the launch in July 2021, BUN has seen 325 attendees at their events, with businesses representing many sectors including, insurance, marketing, investments, film making, well-being, recruitment, charity, and IT, to name just a few. BUN monthly events are well attended, and the network has continued to grow each month.

Sheila Kelly-Trow, co-founder of BUN, says; “The growing success of our events is supported by the professional approach of our support staff, the willingness of local venues to host the lunches and the continuing growth in the number of attendees who are prepared to devote their valuable time in order to join us. It would appear that our approach is along the right lines, however we will continue to develop our approach to business networking to ensure continued success throughout 2022.”

Suzanna Reid Barreiro da Silva, Commercial Director at Unique Venues Birmingham says “BUN is a fantastic opportunity for Birmingham’s businesses to come together and network, thus opening up their business reach and develop working relationships. We hope to provide businesses from all sectors the chance to find other likeminded businesses and to be able to foster partnerships, collaborations and above all, mutual support.”

BUN’s success is evident in their attendees’ endorsements: “I have been attending BUN events on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at various venues. The event attracts businesses and professionals where I have benefited greatly through direct and indirect business referrals. It’s also fun and I have developed friendships through these events. We were fortunate to host one of these events at Zen Metro for which I’m ever grateful to Sheila and her team.

“I highly recommend Birmingham’s Unique Network to anyone who is in business or want to substantially develop their network.” Jaimon George, Director, Zen Metro.

Regular BUN networker Peter Adkins, Partner at Knights plc says, “Birmingham’s Unique Network has been running networking lunches for six months and I have been delighted to be able to attend many of them. As well as enabling the business community to connect again, the support that these lunches give to the hospitality business in Birmingham has been extremely important. As a lawyer involved in Licensing, I know only too well that many venues have suffered during Covid, and they need this type of support as they begin the recovery from the ravages of Lockdown. All round, the network is doing a great job.”

The expectation is to continue growing the network in 2022 and to continue offering Birmingham businesses the opportunity to join this thriving network of local businesses. With the city looking forward to the Commonwealth Games 2022, the BUN network is an excellent way for local businesses to share practices and create new opportunities.

Find out more about the BUN here and to register to find out more about the January 2022 networking lunch, click here

Tourism Alliance Update - £1Bn Support Package

You will have seen on the news that the Government has announced a £1bn fund to support Hospitality and Leisure Businesses. This fund comprises:

  • £683 million for grants for hospitality and leisure businesses in England comprising one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for eligible businesses
  • £102 million top-up for the additional restrictions grant for local authorities to support other businesses
  • £30m for the cultural recovery fund to support theatres and museums
  • £154 million for Scotland and Wales via the Barnett funding
  • There is also a statutory sick pay rebate scheme which will reimburse employers in the UK with fewer than 250 workers for the cost of paying statutory sick pay for Covid-related absences for up to two weeks.

“The business events sector has lost millions of pounds worth of bookings for December and January; we need to know how we’ll cope with potentially little work in January.”

says Beckie Towle, marketing director of HBAA beam and founder of The Events Raccoon

“The business events sector is now looking forward to January with trepidation; with so many events being cancelled or postponed, how much work will we have to keep us afloat?” asks Beckie Towle, marketing director of HBAA beam and founder of The Events Raccoon.

“We desperately need to know whether the intensive rapid booster campaign and the common sense of the British public will halt the rise of Omicron so that confidence returns to our industry? The business events sector has already lost millions of pounds worth of bookings for December and January. If that continues, we will have potentially little work after Christmas, so government support will be crucial to the survival of many businesses. But the schemes that kept businesses alive during the pandemic have ended or are winding down.

The Scottish Government announced a £100 million financial package will be made available for eligible businesses including the hospitality sector that have lost bookings during this key trading period. We need the other UK Governments to provide the same help in addition to the continuation of the reduced rate of VAT and the Kickstart scheme - our Plan B for Events. We need to know before the end of the year - otherwise the start of 2022 is going to be a bleak midwinter.”

“We appreciate the Government’s efforts to keep ‘business as usual’. But, for corporate organisations planning events, ‘business as usual’ along with a directive to work from home is a mixed message. They must consider their duty of care to their staff while facing charges if they cancel the event - the costs are very unlikely to be covered by the Live Events Reinsurance Scheme. Since 15 December, cover must be purchased no less than 8 weeks before the event is due to occur. Many insurance policies are also expensive and won’t cover against Covid.

“Corporate event planners are facing a challenging dilemma that is likely to be costly for everyone, for venues and event suppliers as well as their own businesses.”


Time to shine

By Beckie Towle, Marketing Director of HBAA, soon to be known as beam

As many of you will have seen, HBAA is transitioning with a new name, identity, and a revived focus, which will be officially launched in January. Why? Our acronym stands for Hotel Booking Agents Association and our clients are no longer looking for us to only be a Hotel Booking Agent. The name does not represent our industry today and neither does it represent our membership. HBAA has needed a revised and refreshed look and feel. As we approach our 25th anniversary next year, our association must lead into the next 25 years at the forefront of the business events, accommodation, and meetings industry.

The association will strive to be future fit in a plethora of ways. This includes championing change as a supporting line, creating leaders of tomorrow’s future, and creating outward, as well as inward-facing, communities to shine a light on our industry and our members, with a stronger and united voice into government. We will also lead and debate on key issues that will impact our industry, with macro-environmental issues at the heart. Collaboration across the sector will also be a core focus. We will continue to work for our members as we widen the membership, make our voice louder, ensure that the code of practice represents new ways of working and promote best practices in the new world. Together we will navigate the future together as our industry unfolds in a new world. A brave new world.

Our new name from 14 January will be ‘beam’. What does it stand for? Well, it stands for beam. If you would like words, it is business events, accommodation, and meetings. It truly represents the membership of today and helps us to create a wider membership for the future and bigger a voice, a wider community, and takes us into the next stages of our planning of sustainable growth and longevity. It enables the association to be future-fit and to be repositioned for the future.

As my colleague, Sian Sayward, HBAA/beam Governance Director, said at our launch meeting in October: “We need to be clear on one thing – this isn’t a rebrand. This is a re-imagining of the association.” This period of transition will lead to an exciting and ambitious strategy for the association. We are looking forward to further developing this with our members as we move through the remainder of 2021 and into 2022. or the association. We are looking forward to further developing this with our members as we move through the remainder of 2021 and into 2022.

Inntel ends 2021 with continued growth ........

The pandemic has been problematic for many industries, but businesses in the travel sector have had to battle harder than most. Inntel, the UK’s leading independent corporate travel, meetings and events company has not only managed to navigate its way through the global pandemic but achieve an impressive recovery and exciting new client wins too.

Inntel’s proactive and positive response to the many hurdles COVID-19 put in their way, ensured their creativity and ingenuity paid off. The company has made an incredible recovery from the pandemic’s initial impact, and they are now expanding their Client Relationship Team to cope with business demand.

Inntel’s company culture encourages its team to strive for progression and promotion, which is why the Senior Leadership Team were pleased to offer another internal promotion this year.

Natasha Dawson, who has been with the company for nearly 6 years, has been promoted from her latest role as Strategic Meetings Specialist to become one of Inntel’s Client Relationship Executives, further strengthening their Client Relationship Management department. Natasha will begin her new role in Q1 2022.

Natasha Dawson said: “I am excited to start my new role at Inntel, which will be very different to the positions I have held previously in the Meetings and Events department. I believe that my skills and the experience I have gained in the industry will enable me to support our clients efficiently and effectively.”

In addition to Natasha’s success, Inntel has also recruited Steve Wade as their new Client Relationship Manager. Steve has over 30 years’ experience in the industry, mostly in operational roles, enabling him to add a huge amount of value to Inntel’s current provision.

Steve Wade said: “I was attracted to Inntel’s company values and ethos, which undoubtedly match my own. My many years of experience in operational and client facing roles will enable me to use my knowledge and understanding to support Inntel’s continued growth. I am very much looking forward to working with Inntel’s existing client base and forging new relationships too.”

Douglas O’Neill, Inntel’s CEO said: “It is incredible to see such a positive recovery taking place after the uncertainty the pandemic created for our industry. If we’re seeing an upturn in business, it means other sectors are beginning to return to business as usual, which is something we’re all grateful to see. I am pleased to welcome Steve to the Inntel family and would like to congratulate Natasha on her success too. We have exciting times ahead as we all learn to adapt and operate in our ‘new’ world. The strengthening of our CRM team will ensure we remain pro-active and responsive to our clients’ needs.”

With a client portfolio that boasts many big names from a diverse range of sectors, Inntel is leading the way when it comes to corporate accommodation, travel, meetings and events services. As the largest independent service provider in their sector, their reputation for environmental commitment, advanced technology and customer care is respected throughout the industry. Their recovery and continued growth during such challenging times has been impressive and sets them apart from many of their competitors.


The QHotels Collection has announced a multi-million pound investment across their fitness and health club portfolio promising guests and the local communities, at 18 of their locations, a massive health and fitness boost.

Working with industry leader Life Fitness they are rolling out a major investment programme as they fulfil their vision to make their hotels the ‘best fitness offering hotel group’ in the country.

The plan includes new technology, the latest equipment, personalised training and immersive workout experiences that will spearhead the fitness development of people throughout the UK.

New cardiovascular equipment is being installed plus the latest technology - including mobile apps that will allow people to track their fitness and workouts - and personalised fitness on-demand programmes as part of the experience.

Top of the range equipment will provide state-of-the art gyms and the professional expertise to work with everyone experiencing the hotel’s fitness opportunity to ensure health, wellbeing, training and personal goals are met in a safe, secure and supported environment.

And all results can be transferred to home to encourage continuous development.  Meaning regular fitness and activity monitoring can continue even on holiday.

The ambitious project is being delivered with partner Life Fitness who have spent fifty   years creating equipment and experiences for amateurs through to professionals alike around the world.  Their equipment is used by the Lawn Tennis Association and their Wimbledon contenders and major sporting facilities and talent globally.

Speaking of the partnership, Jodi Phillips, UK Business Development and Hospitality Manager of Life Fitness said: “We’re thrilled to be able to provide equipment and programming to The QHotels Collection’s gyms that will provide its guests with premium, effective exercise experiences. 

 At Life Fitness, we pride ourselves on working with our partners to understand their vision and requirements, then bringing these to life with our wide range of solutions. We have seen an increase in people wanting more ‘On Demand’ sessions and personalised programmes when they visit a fitness suite, and we’re pleased that The QHotels Collection vision reflects this, too. 

 To meet this requirement, we’ve installed a range of equipment to meet the demands of all exercisers, including the Synrgy360’s for functional workouts, rowing machines that allow racing others, a range of strength training stations, and various cardio lines with our SE3HD console that provide ‘On Demand’ workouts for users to get the most from their sessions.”

 Commenting on the investment in fitness for The QHotels Collection, Golf, Leisure & Spa Director Keith Pickard said: “It has always been our desire to offer the best gyms, fitness and leisure activities in the country. Now after 18 months of planning and looking for the perfect partner, that vision is real.  This will also be our biggest investment in over two decades and the best you can get.

“We are introducing an anytime, to suit your needs gym and training facility for everyone and at the highest level of coaching and with the best equipment. Many high profile athletes and celebrities are training with some of the high level equipment we are featuring in our gyms.

“We believe it is the responsibility of everyone in the hospitality industry to ensure that guests and our local community have the facilities to help them take care of their bodies and their health, especially after the pandemic and what we have all been through.  Our multi-million pound investment, which begins its roll out this month, will ensure that we are playing our part in that hospitality promise.”

To encourage the local community to sign up to a healthier lifestyle and to “get in shape”, the group is offering a free membership day trial in January to encourage sign up to a better, fitter lifestyle.  

To find out more, visit


2022: A year of rebuilding and recovery

HBAA/beam directors share their trends and predictions for 2022


2022 will be a year of rebuilding and recovery for the business events, accommodation, and meetings industry, according to the HBAA, soon to be known as beam.

Simon Richards, HBAA Treasurer and Managing Director of Convenus, predicts: “2022 will be a period of rebuilding and recovery. We must learn from our experiences and take the positives forward to develop and enhance our industry, which is where beam comes in to be a catalyst for the future.”

There was extensive agreement, as well as a wide range of thought-provoking views, from HBAA board members when asked for their future predictions and trends.

In-person and virtual lead the way

In 2022, in-person and virtual events will continue to be the most popular formats.

For hybrid events, the jury is still out for many, including Sian Sayward, HBAA Governance Director and Director of Commercial Partnerships & Projects of Inntel. She foresees “global organisations and associations continuing to use a hybrid model. Yet, this option hasn’t been embraced as much as many thought it would. It’s not surprising when you factor in the cost of live and virtual for the same event.”

Meeting trends

The trend for short lead times will continue into 2022, says Des Mclaughlin, HBAA board director and Managing Director of meet events. “While enquiries and confirmations have been on the rise, events have been smaller in size with very short lead-in times, generating a lower spend. This is likely to continue for the first six months of 2022.”

owever, for some clients that are going live, “bigger is better and there is a real recognition to celebrate their survival over the last 18 months,” says Beckie Towle, HBAA Marketing Director and Founder of The Events Raccoon. HBAA board advisor David Taylor expects “a move to more local and regional experiential-led events” too.

It is likely there will be “a change in the mix of business booked, with a greater use of town centre locations with parking,” according to Callum McLean, HBAA Membership Director and Director of Business Partnerships at Agiito.

Rising costs and expectations

Next year venues will continue to suffer from staff shortages, rising energy bills and supply chain issues as a combined result of the pandemic and Brexit. “Hotels and venues will therefore have little choice but to increase rates in 2022 to cover their increasing costs,” Mclaughlin points out.

Issues with global supply chains will “not end anytime soon, most likely well into 2023 for some industries,” says Sayward. As a result, “the industry will not only need to adjust expectations around costs next year, but also service levels,” states McLean. “There needs to be increased customer expectation management in terms of the issues around staffing and resources – the service levels the customer experienced pre-Covid may not necessarily be what they experience now.”

Demand for expertise

There will be opportunities ahead, however. “As international travel opens up, agencies will find their services in demand from customers who want overseas events but need expert advice and support on navigating local legislation in the wake of the pandemic to ensure traveller and delegate safety,” highlights Juliet Price, HBAA’s consultant executive director.

Green opportunities

Sustainability will remain a high priority in 2022. Louisa Watson, HBAA Advisor and Director of Marketing at Wyboston Lakes Resort, says: “Following the discussions at COP26, venues and agencies should, and we expect will, be paying greater attention to the need to implement sustainability action plans, to reduce carbon emissions and achieve whatever goals they have set or pledges they have made. The time for paying lip service to targets has gone.”

This shift towards greener meetings and practices provides a major opportunity for venues and agents to work proactively with clients to support them in achieving their sustainability goals.

However, many industry professionals may be questioning “whether 2030 is a realistic timeline for business travel and meetings and events to be net-zero given the challenge and required resource needed to measure all of the current variables,” adds Sayward. “However, beam is committed to supporting its members and the wider industry to support sustainability initiatives and commitments.”

Collaboration is king

 “Industry collaboration has been epic during the last 20 months.” Towle enthuses. “There’s been a real sense of unity born from these sad times. This mustn’t be forgotten.”

“Through beam we hope to continue our culture of collaboration, which will result in a stronger identity, louder voice, and greater visibility for our sector,” adds Price.

Business outlook

As consumer confidence hasn’t fully returned yet, what the next 12 months will look like is very uncertain. For many, including Julie Shorrock, HBAA membership director and Managing Director of HTS, there has been a “substantial increase in face-to-face meetings, with clients keen to get back to face-to-face client and employee engagement. However, some caution remains with large events, and gathering significant numbers of employees together is still being delayed.”

Also, in the wake of Omicron, there is a “significant amount of nervousness amongst customers and travellers” says McLean. “That nervousness is seen in the number of cancellations in the last few weeks and demonstrates how fragile the recovery potential is. We are now forecasting an even slower recovery for 2022 with Q1 being a real test bed for the rest of the year.”

For Taylor, Q2 is the one to watch. He says: “After Easter, we hope to see real momentum for B2B events again. In the UK there will be a lot of pent-up demand for employee engagement-led events, which will all be underpinned by sustainability initiatives and activities.

“Internationally, while we may not see large B2B symposiums returning quickly, we are seeing the likes of professional services and consulting forging ahead with their event programmes. This is always a good sign as over the last 30 years many traditionally follow this sector after an economic slump.”

Hopes and wishes for 2022

When asked for their hopes and wishes for 2022, the answer was unanimous among the board. Mclaughlin said: “Like everyone. I’m wishing for an end to Covid. Few industries have suffered more than ours over the last 20 months and it would be gratifying if 2022 meant the end of lockdowns, restricted travel and business uncertainty. I am hopeful that by Easter 2022, the worst effects of Covid will be behind us and our industry will return to some kind of normality, although until international travel fully recovers, events will continue to be impacted.”

What the industry needs more than anything in the year ahead is clear direction and communication, consistency, and certainty from the UK government. Richards sums up: “Clients need to have confidence when booking and this can only come from a cohesive government policy and leadership.”

Promotions signal strong end to 2021 for Warwick Conferences ....

Award-winning Midlands venue, Warwick Conferences, has announced two significant promotions, amid a strong and successful end to 2021.

Gail Tomlinson-Short and Nathalie Piper-Krop have been promoted to Head of Business Development and Head of Sales & Events, respectively. Their promotions follow a record-breaking August and strong September for bookings, with event organisers returning to face-to-face meetings with confidence following the lockdown period.

Gail, who has been with Warwick Conferences for more than 25 years, will continue working with the wider business development and marketing team to find innovative ways of engaging with clients. The new Head of Business Development has been instrumental in a number of Warwick Conferences’ inspiring spaces, inputting into the development of the award-winning creative spaces and The Slate.

Nathalie Piper-Krop has been with the business for more than 17 years and has been influential in shaping innovative sales approaches to grow the commercial business within an academic environment. As part of her role as Head of Sales & Events, Nathalie will continue to drive the business’ overall sales strategy, lead the strategic development of the central sales & events team, and oversee the management of events to inspire visitors whilst ensuring excellent client experience.

Paul Bartlett, director of Warwick Conferences, said: “The promotions of Gail and Nathalie are truly deserved and mark an exciting new chapter at Warwick Conferences. 2021 has seen its challenges, but we have experienced record-breaking months as we build up to a new year full of exciting opportunities.

“Our hybrid and virtual services that we launched this year, for example, have proven really successful and we have experienced a high number of enquiries for these. We aren’t resting on our laurels, either, and have been working behind-the-scenes on a number of new spaces and initiatives which we will be launching next year. Thanks to our flexibility and ability to adapt our facilities to ever-changing client demands, we approach 2022 full of confidence as we look to continue to inspire businesses and visitors alike.”

For more information, please visit

Business events and hospitality need Plan B4E – Plan B for Events - immediately now that Plan B has been confirmed

Maintaining the lower level of VAT and extending the Kick Start are essential to sustain newly created jobs”

says Juliet Price, consultant executive director of HBAA beam


We called for the reduced level of VAT paid by the sector to continue beyond April 2022 and the extension of the Kick Start as Plan B4E – Plan B for Events - in October before the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement as advance support in anticipation of Plan B.

“Business events and hospitality now need this support immediately to prevent newly created jobs from being lost again,” says Juliet Price, consultant executive director of HBAA, soon to be known as beam, following the Prime Minister’s announcement of the imminent introduction of Plan B.

“There are already clear signs of another knock back to event planner confidence in booking and running live events. Now that the instruction to work from home again and compulsory mask wearing are being reintroduced widely, we know from bitter experience in early 2020 that the sector will immediately suffer more substantial financial issues and jobs will come under threat. Live events will quickly become commercially less viable and more likely to return to virtual or are cancelled.

“With the onus on whether to continue with events now with the corporate client, they face cancellation charges – but without event insurance to cover them.

“This will not be a short term hit; the industry will feel the consequences of this knock back well into 2022.

“A knock-back like this would be a disaster for the hundreds of agencies, venues and service providers who are just starting to recover after struggling to survive over the last 18 months.

“An immediate announcement that the reduced level of VAT paid by the sector will continue beyond April 2022 would be valuable for financial planning. Extending the Kick Start end date would encourage and help employers to retain new staff aged 18 to 24 even if business is reduced.

“The business events industry needs this ‘Plan B4E’ from the Chancellor now to save jobs that are vulnerable as Plan B is being introduced.”


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