Here are some forecasts and predictions for 2018 from the UK travel, hospitality and meetings industries, provided by some of Custard Communications’ clients. 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, organisations 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. www.mia-uk.org/ 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. www.tylneyhall.co.uk/ 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. www.whittleburyhall.co.uk 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 travellers 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. www.grandeastbourne.com/ 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. www.venues-london.co.uk/ 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. www.venue-elior.co.uk/ 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 are 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 energising 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 organisers take into account every aspect of the experience for delegates.” www.qeiicentre.london/ 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 personalise 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. www.legacy-hotels.co.uk/hotels/new-place-southampton Sustainability remains top of the agenda Jason Miller, CEO of CLEAN Sustainability is going to be even more of a focus for hospitality businesses in 2018 as Savills World Research Travel Megatrends report illustrates 73% of the Millennials and Generation Z travellers are looking for and willing to pay more for sustainable brands. Laundry service provision is a critical issue for hotels, so while commercial laundries need to continually invest in their processes, technology and systems to ensure that continuity of service is maintained at all times, it needs to be without costing the earth. Sustainable practices are an integral part of CLEAN’s ethos, which have seen us reduce our overall carbon footprint by 39%. The one-site operators who aren’t making that investment or continuing to make changes to their operations to benefit the environment around them, simply can’t compete. www.cleanservices.co.uk/ GDPR 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. Authentic relationships Petra Clayton, managing director at Custard Communications With so many people starting their travel planning and purchase processes from social media, changes over the years to search engine ranking algorithms have produced an ever-increasing demand for outstanding social content in the hospitality industry. In particular, personalised content and engaging conversation. Overt selling agendas are rarely well received and the time it takes to cultivate social dialogue can be lengthy. We are seeing a higher spend for hoteliers and venues when it comes to their marketing and PR budget with sound investment in breadth of the full marketing mix, despite a Gartner survey suggesting a fall in spend from 12.1% of company revenue in 2016 to 11.3% in 2017. Those investing in developing a real, authentic relationship with their customers are reclaiming the organic search space and really evolving their businesses into customer orientated organisations.