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Better collaboration needed to address security issues, says panel

Industry leaders discuss challenges facing events sector in 2017, in discussion organised by events by tlc and GMC

Pictured: representatives from across the events sector discussed the latest trends and challenges in a luncheon organised by events by tlc and GMC at Quaglino's on Tuesday

Improving collaborations between destination management companies (DMCs) and agencies, as well as simplifying requests for proposals (RFPs), have been flagged as two of the biggest challenges for the events industry.

The issues were aired in a luncheon and panel discussion at Quaglino's restaurant, organised by events by tlc and its UK sales office GMC. It gathered 14 representatives from different industry sectors including agency, corporate and suppliers.

Diogo Assis, CEO of events by tlc Group, said the discussion was aimed to help the industry develop better relationships and best practices. He said he would use feedback to continue innovating his company's internal practices to better serve clients.

Addressing the issue of security, Micebook founder Chetan Shah said planners and DMCs operated well independently but could improve their collaborative work.

"There's no communication between agencies and DMCs on joint security plans. Each has their own plan. I think there's a lot more awareness but actually (putting in place contingencies) is quite bad," he said.

"It also depends on the industry; in oil and gas and other sectors it's a norm and the clients are asking for it. For others you'll ask 'what's your crisis management plan' and they're going 'I don't know'."

Shah also said the industry was 'shockingly' undervalued, adding that agencies and suppliers were being ever more squeezed on profit margins.

"We have all these external pressures and we're being asked to deliver the same amount of quality for less. Margins used to be up to 20 per cent… now they're so squeezed. But there's so much competition that agencies have no choice but to deal with it."

Assis said new destinations such as Porto in Portugal, Costa Brava in Spain or Brazil, particularly following the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup, offered new value for clients.

Susan Scales, MD at GMC, added that clients were shopping around with more agencies and putting out RFPs that didn't offer enough information.

Jacquie Freer, sales and commercial director at Absolute Corporate Events, said  the industry needed to re-address its expectations across the supply chain.

"We think corporates expect too much of the agencies … and the agencies expect too much of suppliers. It's our job to narrow (RFPs) down and feed the right information," she said.

Freer added that when it came to tightening margins, agencies were having to absorb more costs to retain clients.

Major events from 2016, such as Brexit and the election of US president Donald Trump, were also discussed.

Brian Kenworthy, MD at TMB Events, said: "Brexit has been more of an effect for us because of the pound depreciation against the Euro. We did an event in New York which ended up costing 10 per cent more (than the original quote), which is an issue.

"The other side is the geopolitical issue; people being nervous about going to certain places. We used to use North Africa a bit, but now people don't want to go to Marrakech."

Freer added that there was more support for European destinations that had suffered terror attacks then there was outside of the continent. "There's more stoicism in Europe … there's safety elements in place and a feel that what happened is remote."

Richard Joslin, CEO and co-founder of InVoyage, said hotels, particularly those in London, had stepped up security measures and were more aware of the possibility of security breaches.

Speaking of the election of Trump, Christian Wilk, regional sales director with Hyatt, said there had been no significant impact. He added: "Of course there has been a cautiousness. I have a case where a client is holding space in Chicago but also holding space in Singapore. So we haven't lost any business for now."

Assis said non-Americans were more concerned about the election of Trump than Americans were. "I was there on the day and people were saying simply 'he's our president'. Another thing is Trump is a business owner so from that point of view that could play into our favour."

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