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HBAA introduce new chairman Stephen Usher
The Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA) held its 11th Annual Dinner reception at Principal Hayley’s latest acquisition, the Grand Connaught Rooms, on Friday 15th January. The association, which places over £4.7bn of accommodation and conference business into hotels and venues throughout the UK, also gave new chairman Stephen Usher an opportunity to share his vision for 2010.

Setting the tone for the year ahead, Stephen outlined the HBAA’s short and medium term objectives. He went on to introduce the new HBAA Management Committee consisting of hotel booking agents and venues, and a Wise Council where invited corporate buyers, venue CEOs and Agency CEOs will provide a forum for reviewing the industry. In addition, Stephen announced that the HBAA would be creating many opportunities for both partners and members to be involved in shaping the longer term direction of the association.

The Tim Gasson Award, accredited to an individual for their outstanding promotion of the HBAA, was presented to Richard Rees from Macdonald Hotels and Resorts. On receipt of the award Richard commented: “Winning the Tim Gasson Award is a huge honour; I did not personally have the pleasure of knowing Tim, however, like most in the conference and events sector, I knew of Tim and his outstanding contribution to the industry, not least the HBAA. Being recognised by my colleagues in the HBAA for this prestigious award is something I will endeavour to live up to; Tim’s commitment to the industry was legendary. It is the people and professionalism within our industry that make it such a joy to work in.”

The event drew together over 400 of the industry’s leading hoteliers and agents and raised funds on behalf of the association’s appointed charity, Lynn’s Bowel Cancer Campaign. An online auction raised over £7,758 for the charity, which was founded by TV personality Lynn Faulds-Wood. The HBAA has supported the charity since 2003 and has collectively contributed with donations to the cause in excess of £150,000.

The themed dinner saw the Grand Connaught Rooms transformed into an extravagant circus with a flamboyant set design, a raucous ringmaster and stunning table decorations.

Stephen Usher commented: “As we start the new decade it is the time for the HBAA to move forward and I am sure that, although it is not going to be an easy year, there are signs of growth and business will slowly return. During times like these the benefit of being an active part of an association is truly felt.”