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Tony Rogers of CAT Publications
Minister should not defend the indefensible
The interview with Margaret Hodge (‘Making it Happen’, M&IT, January) seems to me to be a classic example of an attempt to defend the indefensible in terms of the government’s support (or rather lack of support) for VisitBritain. How can it be right to reduce funding to our national tourism body (which has won international awards for the quality of its work) by 18 per cent over the next three years in the build-up to the 2012 Olympics? If VisitBritain was already in receipt of a generous budget, there might perhaps have been some justification for such action against the backcloth of severe and competing pressures on the public purse, but the reality is that this is far from the case. And putting matters into an international context, Australia has recently spent around £70 million on a single marketing campaign (“Where the bloody hell are you?”), almost twice VisitBritain’s total operational budget, while individual Caribbean islands have larger tourism budgets than Britain. For DCMS to propose further budget reductions on the back of substantial recent cuts is a scandal, and it’s not surprising that the industry is up in arms.
The minister is assuming that business visits and events can be marketed in the same way as leisure travel (ie. via websites and brochures). They cannot. They require an inordinate amount of pre-planning, face-to-face selling and representation in overseas locations, all requiring intensive resources.
I would agree with the minister that there is a need to ‘cut out unnecessary duplication’ and achieve ‘better co-ordination of policy and resources at national, regional and local level’. Back in 2006 the Business Tourism Partnership called for a ‘more harmonious structure between Regional Development Agencies, Regional Tourist Boards, and VisitBritain to achieve greater cohesiveness and a more proactive approach to business tourism in England’. There has not been too much evidence of progress to date – and, after all, the current structure was established by the present government.
I’m sure the industry will welcome her pledge to encourage support across Whitehall departments for bids designed to attract major international events to the UK. This is long overdue and something for which we have been lobbying for years. But this does need to include other practical assistance from Government departments and agencies, both in the UK and overseas, involving proactive and coordinated support by senior Ministers, Ambassadors, Trade Consuls and Commercial Attachés. This is one very tangible way in which ‘joined-up Government’ could move beyond being a catchphrase into a reality that would provide genuine assistance in delivering more major business events for the UK.
British Association of Conference Destinations / Association of British Professional Conference Organisers
Trevor Foley of CAT Publications
Izania Downie of CAT Publications
Emma Hunt of MSI Global Alliance
I work for a company called MSI Global Alliance. We are a membership organisation, our members are independent law and accounting firms from around the world. We hold regional and annual meeting for all our delegates.
We have been asked by our members to consider holding a "speed networking" session at one of our meetings.
Has anyone ever done something like this and if so how did you go about organising and carrying out the session? Was it successful and did you receive any feedback that you found useful for any future attempts?
I look forward to hearing any comments anyone may have.
James Adam of Adam Baker Event Logistics
Websites - a missed opportunity.
It seems that the majority of websites are designed to frustrate and infuriate. Even some of the largest chains fail to provide a clear easy to use site.
Try finding simple details like telephone numbers, capacity charts, floorplans, photos, email addresses, number of bedrooms - well settle down for the day. It's the equivalent of the automated telephone system. You go round endlessly in vain.
Most sites were built with airline systems to allow individuals to book rooms online. The problem is that since the 90's there has been no change. The MICE market is the poor relation online. Little has been done to address this.
When proposing or searching for a hotel, a website should in theory provide the majority of the information required. It saves time and resources for all parties. I am sure the groups co-ordinator loves dealing with all the emails requesting floorplans, menus, what's included in the DDR.
When I go on the site I do not want to fill in an RFP and have to wait for a reply which seems to be a growing fad.
I recommend that hotels take an old brief and see if they can work with their own sites. It should highlight what a waste of money most of them are.
Heres a thought, for all the money spent on glossy brochures with photos of towels draped on beds and roses in vases, which are perhaps aspirational but really don't help us see what the product is like. Why not save the forest and invest in their websites.
Glenn A J Bowdin of CAT Publications
Education embraces events industry involvement
As chair of the Association for Events Management Education (AEME) I feel it important to respond on behalf of our members to recent editorial comments about students leaving courses without the skills that the industry needs (M&IT, November/December 2007, Viewpoint) and your reference to the quote from Trevor Foley, Event Industry Alliance group Chief Executive, who made the claim that ‘There are 56 event management degrees out there and in my opinion most of them are crap’. From our members’ perspectives in further and higher education this view could not be further from the truth.
AEME represents many of the leading providers of events management education in the UK, Ireland and increasingly overseas. For those members offering diplomas, degrees, Masters and other further and higher education qualifications, their courses have undergone a rigorous validation process (internally and externally verified) to ensure the quality of the provision, including ensuring that industry needs have been considered and reflected in the curriculum, while also making sure that higher level graduate and postgraduate knowledge and skills are developed. These courses recognise the range of business and management skills and knowledge areas required to operate in this fast-paced industry, alongside creative and other event-specific areas.
The courses are monitored on an ongoing basis by external examiners to ensure that they are quality assured and move beyond vocational training to operate alongside (and at the same level) as other courses at further and higher education. The recent development and consultation (to which industry associations were invited to respond) on events-specific benchmarks, alongside hospitality, leisure, sport and tourism within the Quality Assurance Agency framework, marks a significant milestone in the development and recognition of events management education and finally begins to formally recognise the emergence and existence of the events industry, the various sectors within it and our industry specific needs, including education.
AEME is a member of the Business Tourism Partnership. We engage with industry at the highest level so that the exchange of best practice, from the events industry (whose views are represented by the range of respected industry associations and other key stakeholders making up the BTP membership, including EIA) to educators, and from educators/researchers through to industry, formally and effectively takes place. As an example of institution level engagement, at the UK Centre for Events Management, Leeds Metropolitan University, industry professionals engage in our programmes and activities from consultation on critical development, validation and programmes, consultancy, conference and seminar presentations, guest speaking, visits, research, evaluation, projects and assignments, work experience, graduate recruitment, awards and industrial placements, through to industry professionals teaching on our events management programmes in a full or part-time capacity.
Assessment content and style relate to the skills that graduates will need in industry, for example, pitches, proposals, presentations, reports and even developing and managing live events. We have appointed Tony Rogers, Chief Executive of BACD and Executive Director of ABPCO, as Visiting Fellow and Paul Gudgin, formerly Director of Edinburgh Festival Fringe, as Visiting Professor; our undergraduate Student of the Year Award is sponsored by WorldEvents, while one of our PhD students is sponsored by Logistik. In addition, industry practitioners are increasingly turning to higher education to meet their Continuing Professional Development needs and our educators and students are increasingly engaged in professional associations. These examples are not unique to Leeds Met – hardly a day goes by without industry engagement with events management education and vice-versa.
AEME encourages and embraces education and industry, and our education members encourage industry involvement in their programmes. We would also like to extend an invitation to fellow industry professionals to attend our annual forum in June 2008 where we can continue to exchange ideas, debate and reflect upon developments in the events industry and education as we all recognise the role that we all play in the professionalisation of, and professionalism in, this great industry.
Glenn A J Bowdin
Principal Lecturer, UK Centre for Events Management, Leeds Metropolitan University
Veronica Jones of Vjem Events
Last minute venue required
One of my clients has been let down at the last minute by a venue. They need somewhere in central London that can accommodate 80 - 100 guests with buffet and disco on Friday 14 December. As you can imagine they are pulling their hair out and I have tried all my contacts to no avail. Just thought I see if anyone else could help.
Any suggestions welcome.
Charles Blowfield of Charles Blowfield Associates
Linda Brownlie of CAT Publications
Shopper should compare apples with apples
I was surprised and disappointed to see the results of your recent Mystery Shopper survey in which the University of Strathclyde was poorly placed. On investigation it appeared that the enquiries related to year round conference business and those universities which scored well all have dedicated conference centres.
Unfortunately we do not and we are unable to accommodate meetings and conferences between the months of October to May. Consequently, BDRC’s calls were routed to the University’s Academic Room Bookings section which is not a sales office and does not deal with the type of business you had in mind. I feel strongly that we should not have been included in this survey as we are not comparing like with like.
Our conference letting period is between the months of June and September when the sales and marketing office have access to the University’s extensive meeting facilities. I would hope that had you had made an enquiry relating to that period and had spoken to a member of the sales team that your experience would have been very different.
Commercial sales manager
University of Strathclyde