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Drop 'free' in venue finding, says HBAA

Association urges agencies to stop marketing themselves as a free venue finding service, saying transparency is key

Pictured: HBAA executive director Juliet Price

Venue finding agencies are being urged to stop marketing themselves as a 'free' service, with the HBAA saying it detracts from their reputation and perceived value from clients.

The association, formerly known as Hotel Booking Agents Association, says removing the 'free' connotation would remove confusion and help clients better understand the service provided.

It comes as the HBAA prepares to launch a revised version of its Code of Conduct this summer, which also explores the issue of commission.

Speaking at The Meetings Show, executive director Juliet Price and chair Louise Goalen, said the practice of taking commission needed continual assessment within the industry.

"Agencies very much market it as providing a free service when it comes to venue finding, yet so many do so much more than venue finding," Price said.

"It works negatively for them. We got to a point 10 years ago where corporate buyers didn't appreciate the service because in their eyes, it is free. We've been saying to agencies 'stop saying it's free' because clients will respect you more, they will respect the business model more and there will be less (confusion).

"We're telling agency members 'tell them how we work, what your business model is and get the respect from your client'. I think it's a breath of fresh air. We've put for the first time (in our Code of Practice) that agency members should disclose to clients that they're working on commission based models. Hopefully that will stop them saying it's a free service."

The association will also shine a spotlight on commission at its annual forum, taking place in Manchester on 6 July. It also touched on the topic during an education session as part of The Meetings Show.

Price continued: "We live and breathe it (commission) but we've never put it out there. It may make some agency people uncomfortable but we have to discuss it, we have to say don't rest on your laurels because there may be a major disruptor out there that could really shake things up and if that's the case, we need to be adaptive."

  • Nigel Alden of Complete Event Solutions 20/06/2017

    We will never stop promoting ourselves as a free service, which is proven by the fact that we have never issued an invoice to any of our clients and we guarantee that the rates we obtain on their behalf are at least as good as they would get direct and in many cases are better. I don't feel our clients could respect what we do for them any more than they do. To imply it is not a free service is very dangerous and could be counter-productive, although maybe not all agents look after their clients as well as we do.

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