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For the first time in its eleven year history, the Hotel Booking Agents” Association (HBAA) invited buyers to its annual conference.
A joint day was held between HBAA members, their partners and buyers, many of them members of the UK and Ireland Institute of Travel Management (ITM).
”It was the first time we have done this,” Sue Burgess, operations director for Inntel and chairman of the Association.
”It is really important to start opening channels. We have been getting the input of our members who are agents and our partners who are hoteliers. Now we need the third angle from the buyers.”
The HBAA was founded by Peter Ducker, now the Association”s executive director, Mike Thirkettle and Charles Cockell, both of whom have now retired.
The aim was to give a voice and platform to a group which Ms Burgess described as ”specialists.”
It now has 75 members who have a joint annual turnover of ”1bn and 160 partners. This last figure has doubled in the past year.
”We are different from travel management companies which are represented by the GTMC (the Guild of Travel Management Companies). We are specialists covering meetings, venues and hotels.
”Travel is not our main business although some members do offer travel, like flights or rail, as an ancillary service,” Ms Burgess said.
”Our members also work on more of a commission basis rather than a fee like the TMCs.
”We don”t always use the GDSs either to book hotels. The TMC will often only use a GDS for that but we are often looking for a niche hotel or somewhere outlying.
”If clients asked a TMC to book them a hotel in the Isle of Skye, the TMC might not be interested but we would book it.
”It depends on what the client is looking for. If it is a global service with flights, go to a TMC.
”We offer a personalised, specialist service. It is not so much about rates anymore but more about what you can do for the client across the board.”
Mr Ducker said: "The decision to run the second day as a joint day with ITM is because we are seeking to broaden the debate.
”The HBAA Forum is recognised as the leading arena for hotels and agencies to engage in, and over recent years a number of major industry initiatives have resulted from it.
”We were keen to turn the dialogue into a trialogue ” completing the supply cycle.
”We feel that every party ” corporate, hotelier and agent gained a valuable insight into the business processes, and will certainly seek to build on the experience."
The day at the conference in the Park Inn, Heathrow was a success. Paul Tilstone, executive director of ITM, said: ”The Partnership Forum with HBAA has been a very positive experience, and it's great to focus on the corporate accommodation sector.
”The information presented by speakers has been of an incredibly high standard and we are delighted to say one of the outputs will be a joint paper on ”How hotels manage revenues.”