HBAA, the trade association for the UK meetings, events and accommodation industry, is calling on event planners to be flexible with venues on service-level agreements (SLAs) whilst the sector works towards recovery. 

HBAA is calling for greater flexibility, understanding and even a revision of existing SLAs as some venues nationwide are facing severe staff shortages while dealing with a huge rise in enquiries/bookings – and yet confirmations still remain low. 

Juliet Price (Consultant Executive Director, HBAA) explained: “Many venues and businesses in our sector are opening and ready for business. However, the length of lockdowns, furlough hangover, redundancies, Brexit-related workforce departures and visa issues plus the lack of contracted bookings has led to significant numbers of people leaving key positions, resulting in a severe shortage of staff across the sector. Coupled with employees testing positive for Covid or being required to self-isolate, businesses are under immense pressure when faced with a surge in enquiries, bookings and the overwhelming demands of large-scale reopening, without any immediate income. 

“The knock-on effect is also being felt within other parts of the supply chain. Agencies experiencing a slow response from some venues are struggling to maintain their service levels to customers. 

“At present, with the ongoing changes to government guidance, customers may require more handholding and assurances as we reignite their confidence around meeting in person. Venues are now also having to take time to re-evaluate capacities, catering options, delegate flow and indoor/outdoor facility options.  This adds pressure all round and has an impact on SLAs. It is vital that planners are open to temporarily adjusting SLAs during this challenging time and important for event organisers to understand that communication channels and response times may vary.” 

Gareth Warnock (Venue Sector Advisor, HBAA & Group Sales Director, De Vere) added: “We are working hand in hand with our customers, supporting them and giving them the detailed answers to any queries they may have with regards to their bookings.” 

“We’re seeing signs of movement in the meeting and events sector, and we hope this increases as Step 4 of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown in England comes into place. Consumer confidence appears to be shifting in the right direction, which everyone in the hospitality industry sees as a positive; we hope this continues throughout the sector as the nation continues to move towards unlocking.”