Comment: Quality is key to successful travel industry events

At the recent Barclay’s Travel Forum it was suggested the industry was awash with events, and that there should be a coming together of the industry to coordinate or moderate the number in circulation.

As MD of the largest B2B travel media business in the UK it’s obviously something that resonated with me; we have 50 events of our own in the travel sector, and a further 50 in our sister brand’s hospitality portfolio.

When we acquired Travel Weekly Group almost six years ago we had five events, so the growth in this arm of our product portfolio has been staggering.

If the industry does have too many events then I have to put my hand up and take my share of the blame, but equally when I look at the growth in attendance at our major events, ranging from invitation-only business breakfasts and forums to flagship awards, I have to question whether it’s a case of sour grapes from those failing to keep pace with the times.

A suggestion that ‘the industry has too many awards’ perhaps has some credibility. However, I look at the Globe Travel Awards and see an event that has grown circa. 40% in attendance since 2010, and has more travel agent votes than ever.

The Agent Achievement Awards on July 7 this year has sold out over two months out from the date of the event, so without being complacent I have immense confidence these award evenings have their place in the market.

Our mantra here has always been to lay on quality events, and by that I mean the quality of the entertainment, food, speakers or panels, right through to the venue, and importantly the audience in attendance.

We want our events to be acknowledged as industry-leading throughout the portfolio, but that only comes from consistency of quality; and no-one is harder on us than ourselves where that’s concerned.

It’s not however our responsibility to monitor the quality of other events in the industry, and while there are many excellent ones, there are some pretty appalling ones too.

The businesses running those events are finding out the hard way that simply laying on a room, some canapés, and a panel of seen-before speakers does not make for a solid events strategy. In an increasingly time-sensitive world people are voting with their feet.

What I do believe is that the success of an event is as much in the hands of those attending as it is those facilitating it.

Travel is a social industry which affords us the opportunity to visit amazing locations and go to spectacular events throughout the year. However this ‘social’ element can also be our downfall.

How often do we attend an event and find safety with industry friends rather than finding the three or four new individuals or companies that could enhance our own businesses?There has to be a balance, and there has to be an effort to connect outside of existing circles and cliques.

An event is a platform for an attendee or delegate, but it’s their responsibility to make the most of that platform. It could be through applying business advice from a high-profile speaker, collecting an award as recognition for sustained excellence, or it could be that vital business card that leads to incremental sales. You have to seize the opportunity.

In future it’s unlikely you’ll see significant further increases in the volume of events from Travel Weekly, in the UK at least. We’ve built a strong portfolio over a number of years, and our focus is on enhancing and improving those events to ensure they maintain the quality standards we demand.

If others choose not to follow suit then the volume of industry events won’t even be a topic of conversation as, put simply, theirs won’t exist anymore.

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