A look into 2018 in the UK, by Custard Communications

Custard Communications listened to some of its clients and, using those insights, has a couple ideas of what 2018 will be for the UK travel hospitality and meetings industries.

Well-being during stressful events, apps for the industry and creative activities are some of the trends for next year.

Fostering improved wellbeing 
Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association

Over the next 12 months as we continue to face the uncertainties and challenges caused by leaving the European Union, organizations in the sector will come under increasing pressure to retain and look after their talented staff. From our own research examining the mental wellbeing of the sector, we are extremely aware that the industry both needs and requires more compassionate workplaces to make it a more desirable and rewarding place to work. As part of our continued efforts to attract and retain talent, a key part of the Meetings Industry Association’s work for 2018 will be supporting the sector with a number of dedicated workshops to create environments to foster improved wellbeing.

Escape to the country
Sam Aziz, general manager of Tylney Hall Hotel

Over the past year, I've seen an increase in city-based businesses coming to Tylney Hall because they want to get out into the British countryside and reward their teams with an escape from the city. I think this is a trend that is set to continue in 2018, as businesses look to source venues that provide tranquil and inspiring settings as well as the first-class facilities required of a meeting space. With 66 acres of beautiful gardens, Tylney Hall attracts a wide variety of corporate clients, looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Inspiring meetings with creative activities
Marc Webster, commercial director at Whittlebury Hall & Spa

Companies are always looking for something new and inspiring for corporate away days and meetings, and we believe this is set to grow in 2018.  Gone are the days where businesses would be content with a standard meeting room and a buffet lunch; they want to provide their staff with a unique experience which helps boost creativity to get the most out of their event. The facilities we have across the estate at Whittlebury allow us the flexibility to offer a combination of meetings across our 62 rooms for up to 500 delegates, team building activities, spa treatments and 36-hole golf course, catering for all needs. This enables companies to reward staff with fun activities alongside the more serious business focus. Most industry reports are indicating that 2018 will be a strong year within the domestic market for meetings and events, and the need for corporate clients to seek out service-led venues is at the top of the criteria list; positive news for Whittlebury Hall & Spa as we are AIM Gold accredited.

Eastbourne on the up
Jonathan Webley, general manager of The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne

In 2018, I expect to see the MICE industry follow in the footsteps of leisure travelers and head to Eastbourne, one of Britain's fastest growing seaside resorts. Thanks to hundreds of millions of pounds being invested into the town, the facilities for businesses looking to hold an event in the town are outstanding, with so much to do that it's the ideal location for a two or three-day event to reinvigorate and refresh delegates with a breath of sea air.

Service levels could become stretched
Paul Martins, board member of Westminster Venue Collection and director of sales at Cavendish Venues

Technology has driven an increase in online event agency portals offering wider and comparative choice, quicker bookings, shorter lead times and live availability for smaller standard meetings. Over time, this could lead to more negotiation over commission levels for peak dates too as clients become more accustomed to booking this way. Venue websites by the same token have to constantly evolve to engage clients just as the Westminster Venue Collection has. Given the current political instability across the world with Brexit and recent controversial election results, confidence for firms to spend more on larger events may be more hit and miss. Discussions surrounding challenges such as staffing levels and expenditure will become even more significant. If living costs increase and there is difficulty attracting skilled event professionals and employees with a sufficient high-work ethic, service levels may be stretched, and profit-margins reviewed.

Bespoke apps for events
Tracey Chappell, national sales manager of stadia and concessions at Venuelior

Throughout 2017 we have seen the rise of bespoke apps becoming a key feature of events and conferences, as venues move to collaborate with brands to create event-specific features. These user-friendly platforms allow for easier registration and increased delegate accessibility and engagement, providing an opportunity for event-planners to facilitate a conversation around the event both before and after its occurrence. The use of these apps will continue into 2018, with the integration of virtual and augmented reality becoming increasingly important as another form of delegate participation, offering delegates access to tools such as 3D venue layout videos or live sensory experiences.

Putting wellness on the menu
Diane Waldron, director of sales and marketing at the QEII Centre

Wellness breaks in the conference and meetings world are going to become a much higher priority in 2018, as the millennial generation is far more conscious of their health and wellbeing. For example, a large technology conference we worked with in 2017 was acutely aware of the effects of the afternoon sugar slump, so our in-house caterers, QEII Taste, worked closely with them to develop a menu of energizing options that wouldn't create bloat and were also suited to varied dietary requirements including gluten intolerance and veganism. During breaks there was a fresh fruit bar rather than biscuits, with the emphasis strongly on energy and brain food, and this is something we expect to see a lot more of in the coming year. The trend towards looking after yourself is also extending to choice of location for events, as organizers take into account every aspect of the experience for delegates.

Simplify guest journeys
Richard Powell, general manager at New Place Hotel, Southampton

Simplifying the guest's journey from search to stay will continue into 2018. Effective use of technology will not only ensure the guest's journey is efficient and easy, but technology will also help to personalize the experience; to know and anticipate guest needs and therefore exceed expectations. The traditional receptionist role will become more of a ‘host’ role, with the all-important human interaction used for information and feedback. The whole process can be enhanced by technology, but not replaced.

Petra Clayton, managing director at Custard Communications

The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) comes into force on 25 May 2018; inevitably this will bring challenges but also opportunities in the way we handle marketing and sales data in the industry. We believe marketing budgets are likely to become more balanced across each channel and feature an increase in more face to face opportunities. We are already seeing improved practices across our client portfolio and the welcome opportunity to improve data quality and transparency. When surveyed by the Direct Marketing Association, only 54% of businesses expected to be completely compliant by the deadline. We are encouraging our clients to be ready by the end of this year.

Tags: Trends, UK