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February 20112 . . 39 HBAA FORUMPaul Colston reports on the third annual Hotel Booking Agents Association/Conference News Forum, with RFP technology the main item on the agenda in the Science Museum's LibraryLondon's Science Museum hosted the third Hotel Booking Agents Association/Conference News Winter Forum, sponsored by Lockton, recently.Agency prospects for 2012 and developments in meetings technology were the main themes of discussion.Forum Chairman and HBAA Chief Executive Peter Ducker set the scene: "Round table discussions are a great way to lift the lid on industry issues. One of the great successes the HBAA has achieved is creating an environment where industry leaders willingly and openly share their views for the common good."One of the challenges we set the table at this round table were around the impact of technology on meetings and events."Where better to hold such an event than the Science Museum: a temple to innovation?"The forum kicked off with some assessments of trends in the businesses of the individual agency and venue representatives present.Had the outgoing year been a year of two halves, as suggested in a recent CN article, Ducker asked? And would the Olympics benefi t events business?Guy Mason of Dorset-based Brief2Event agency said the fi rst quarter of 2011 had been slow before business picked up, leading to highest achieved sales in 2011. "We had thought any Olympic bookings would be a bonus," he said, "but now, having won some Olympic accommodation business, 2012 is set to be our strongest year. We have tried to educate clients to get their 2012 conference diaries in order." Challenging timesThe Science Museum's Library provided the learned backdrop for the Third Annual HBAA/Conference News Forum

109JoJo Mini Changing MatsUnfolds into a practical and generous changing area of 52 x 38cm. NAVY STRIPE B6994 £9BLACK FLORAL B9008 £9Almora PacaPod BagsThree in one bag that has two inner pods that can be used individually. h40 x w32 x d18cm. Stone, Black (not shown).B7702 £75Skip-Hop Mini ChangersHandy fold out mat with wipes holder and storage pockets. h22 x w29 x d3cm. Black, Wavy Dot, Red. A6735 £29Change your bag?Tan Changing BagStylish bag with lots of inner pockets and wipe clean changing mat. Detachable shoulder strap. Faux leather. h26 x w42 x d12cm. B7296 £40With loads of gorgeous changing bags to choose from there's no need to sacrifi ce style for practicality!More changing bags available onlinechanging bags | Also available in black40 . . February 20122012-HBAA FORUMAndrew Deakin, Director of Conference Care, was not quite so bullish: "We were very confi dent in the fi rst few months of 2011; then in April the phone just stopped ringing. We put that down to Bank Holidays then the Royal Wedding. In November, the phones slowed again. "But, in terms of opportunities, things are good. There are customers out there, but events are smaller, happening within three or four weeks and all price sensitive."James Varah, Sales Director from The Brewery in London, said he was cautiously optimistic."A lot of our events are association business that must happen," he said. "The City is coming back. No doubt people are nervous, but the second quarter of 2012 was the strongest it's been in last four years. We haven't budgeted for the Olympics to save us."CN Editor Paul Colston asked the agents whether they had detected business being brought forward into the second quarter because of the Olympics.Varah: "Yes. We are looking at displaced graduate training business and some AGMs. We're hoping, however, not for a one off spike, but for some lasting business."Deakin said one hotel chain he dealt with tried to hike rates 100 per cent for 2012: "It angered our client and we will place the business elsewhere and the hotel will now lose out on that and business in future, too, I suspect."David Taylor, Director at Grass Roots' venue fi nding division, said 2011 had been a good year for business, but that 2012 would see uncertainty."Some of the big training programmes we work on are not 100 per cent sure to go ahead."Deakin said hotel rates in London were increasing, but decreasing in the provinces. "There is a split in the economy. In 2010, we did £2.5m of business in London. Midway through 2011 we'd done three million pounds. He contrasted this to the provinces where, he said: "They are fi ghting for anything they can get.""Some corporate clients cannot sustain coming to London and have to look elsewhere," noted Mason."Some venue space has shifted away from meetings and events and towards the leisure market," noted Colston."In Bournemouth, the main venues have changed their branding to BH Live," added Mason. "That refl ects the market they're going after. The core conference business hotels relied on is being dragged from under their feet."Level playing fi eldOne area where the playing fi eld was not level, according to Ducker, was subvention funding for the big conventions.Alison Brooks, Head of Account Management UK and Ireland at HRS (Hotel Reservation Service), contrasted the strong German Conference and Meetings Market, with the current weaker UK market.Anne Doherty, Director for Global Meetings from HelmsBriscoe, said Northern cities in the UK were more supportive of organisers. "Delegateswon't come to London in our experience and numbers are down."Taylor said the UK was becoming more expensive and demand for events could go down. "The question," he said, We have tried to educate clients to get their 2012 conference diaries in order Top: Brief2Event's Guy Mason with HRS' Alison Brooks. Middle: Etherlive's Tom McInery and the Science Museum's Alicia Dickinson. Bottom: Banks Sadler's Chris Taylor and The Brewery's James Varah