Blue Sky Thinking in the Travel Industry

In conversation with Donna Fitzgerald, Chief Operating Officer, Agiito

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At Lime Venue Portfolio, we’ve been privileged to have some of the leading voices in the meetings and events industry on this blog. None more so than Donna Fitzgerald, Chief Operating Officer at Agiito.

Agiito are in the envious position of being able to look at the meetings and events market from several different angles, the business works across the UK and globally with its customers and partners, but also across travel as well as meetings and events. In short, they are in the business of people going to places for a business reason. Where we see rises in delegate numbers, Donna and her team can attribute this to wider trends such as the return of the commuter, the re-opening of office space, or the changes in business working practices.

We like these sorts of conversations. It’s important we know what the wider world is doing and why and how it affects the experiences we host within our portfolio of lovely venues. So, when we sit down with sages like Donna, we go for the big questions.

The first is about confidence, how are Agiito looking on 2022 and what are the factors that are entering into their decision making as we move through the year?

“Confidence is very good right now. Large UK domestic spend came back first, as anticipated, and we are seeing increased demand from our customers. Our accommodation, venue find, and air services have all been strong since early 2022 and although we saw a slower return to rail – people preferred to travel in their cars or to postpone- this has now started to improve,” says Donna.

This is primarily about the easing of shackles and the general growing of confidence amongst the public. Agiito see this confidence reflected in the growing amount of people returning to the office, which is having a positive boost on the travel side of their business, and a natural knock-on to meetings and events.

That’s certainly good news for everyone in the sector, Agiito are one of the most successful businesses booking and organising meetings and events. However, of equal importance is the success and confidence of their own clients, how are they faring?

“They’re definitely growing in confidence. Since restrictions were lifted, we have seen a general encouragement to travel, more people returning to the office and a genuine desire to reconnect with others,” comments Donna, again the bearer of good news.

So, did they miss the sector, has absence made their collective hearts grow stronger?

“Absolutely,” says Donna. “There is a definite requirement (and desire) for people to meet face-to-face again, we are also seeing more demand for social interaction away from the meeting; these include team building, off site dinners, and bookings to venues away from cities and town centres, allowing delegates to stay overnight and have some down-time after the main meeting.

“We have also seen an increase in incentive events with customers wanting to reward their teams for the last two years and several of these are taking place in Europe,” continues Donna.

However, there are very few businesses that did not come away unscathed by the pandemic, so how does Donna and her team see the industry’s recovery panning out?

“The scale of the disruption has been unprecedented and the sector’s supply chain is still experiencing significant stress and challenge, we see this continuing for many months to come,” says Donna. However, she sees recruitment and talent as the biggest single challenge to the industry, adding, “This impacts all service levels and turnaround times. But also, areas such as customer service teams, housekeeping, F&B, and contracting.”

It’s an opinion shared by many commentators across the industry. After seeing so many people lost from the world of meetings and events, how can we get the best talent back into an industry that, by its very nature, is all about people.

Donna believes offering great careers is key, “It’s understandable that graduates would look with some scepticism towards the travel industry, but we have to remind them that this is a highly rewarding career, with some brilliant businesses well worth working in.”

“We’re also up against a new wave of businesses and industries and we need to show them we are an agile and dynamic sector which rewards talent, regardless of who they are and where they come from. Not many industries can do that.”

It’s a positive note to a roundly positive discussion. How we’ve missed them, and how nice to see one of the industry’s key businesses looking forward with such confidence. At Lime Venue Portfolio, our job is simply to support these businesses and their clients. If we do our part, and they keep on doing theirs, 2022 could be a great year of fantastic events.