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A: Although I think we all agree that virtual events are not the same as face-to-face socials, there are plenty of innovative ideas on how to get people together during these difficult times when many will be feeling isolated, often doing very stressful jobs. There are various ways to use the wide range of technological options available with the main key to success being interaction.
In terms of training, we have found that shorter sessions work best. With everyone sat at home, it is harder to keep people’s attention for the same amount of time as you would in person – consider shortening the time slots you would use for a physical event by 15 or 30 minutes. Rather than a full day training, think about doing a half day with plenty of screen breaks. Breakout rooms also work well, allowing people to discuss topics in smaller groups which means everyone can be involved. We have been using Zoom which has worked well. It automatically puts people into separate breakout ‘rooms’, encouraging engagement and making it difficult for people to hide behind their camera/computer. Consider also doing training in smaller groups, using a meeting platform that ensures everyone has their cameras on and that people are asked questions regularly. Polls are also a good way of coaxing people in who may be nervous about participating initially.
For social events, back in March we all turned to Zoom quizzes and virtual pub quizzes as a great way to bring people together, but there are also other good options out there. I have personally taken part in virtual bingo games and scavenger hunts which have been a lot of fun. Classes are a great way to bring people together and involve everyone. How about a ‘create your own face mask’ workshop or a bake-off hour? Unlike in person meet-ups, don’t assume everyone will want to participate in the evening. After a full day sitting in front of a screen, people appreciate meeting up during different times in the day, so why not try a lunchtime cook-along or late afternoon cocktail making class instead? Wellbeing is another avenue to think about – how about combining socialising with exercise? Perhaps setting up a team running group and encouraging people to share their results on Strava? Or organising a live stream yoga class before work in the mornings?
Finally, with everyone working from home, it is very easy for teams to end up in silos. How about setting up a ‘30 minutes with a buddy’ each week where two people from your different high street outlets are randomly put together for a catch up? I bet everyone will be surprised how many similar experiences they are having and might also help with any common work problems they need solving.
– Eve Coburn, ABTA head of content, conferences and events
Each issue we speak to an ABTA employee about their work. This time: Emma Wade, public affairs manager
As ABTA’s Public Affairs Manager I work as part of a small, but dynamic, team which oversees relations between ABTA, industry representatives and politicians, governments and other decision-makers.
I have been with ABTA for just over a year now (and what a year it has been!), having held a number of public affairs roles in a variety of industries for almost a decade, after starting my career working in Parliament. Public affairs plays an important role in what we do as a trade association, ensuring that the current and future policy and regulatory environment gives our Members the best chance to thrive. Collectively, the team operates across Westminster and Whitehall, but also the devolved governments, local government and the EU. Which is a pretty broad remit for a team of four!
In reality, lobbying is about building relationships, which is important for any business or industry. We represent Members’ interests by sharing our knowledge to build trust and recognition with policymakers, with the ultimate aim of influencing decisions and achieving strategic outcomes. We know that the economic, social and cultural benefit of travel is very significant, and it is up to us to ensure that those with political power recognise this too. It is particularly important at the moment that the government does all it can to give our industry the best chance to survive the current crisis.
Back at the beginning of the pandemic, ABTA launched the Save Future Travel campaign in response to the immediate situation facing the industry, with the joint aim of educating policy makers (in particular about insolvency protections), in addition to calling for tailored support for the industry, including on Refund Credit Notes. As the crisis has continued, the campaign has evolved to bring attention to recovery and restart issues, and we have increasingly focused on financial measures to support businesses, particularly through to the critical Easter travel period next year.
Although it hasn’t been making as many headlines this year, Brexit is also firmly back on the political agenda. For our Members, whose attention is currently on day-to-day survival, it is vital that the Public Affairs team keeps an eye on all of the issues that might impact travel businesses, in particular leading up to the end of the transition period.
And while we certainly have a lot on our plates at the moment, that doesn’t mean that ABTA isn’t looking beyond 2020, at what’s on the horizon for travel. Although it can be difficult to see through the fog of coronavirus and Brexit, we still take the time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. We know that climate change and sustainability will continue to be really important issues, particularly with the UK hosting the rescheduled COP26 global climate change summit in 2021. That’s why, at this year’s Travel Convention, we launched a new report: Tourism for Good. In these challenging times it’s a reminder of the value of tourism, and provides a roadmap for how the industry can place sustainability at the heart of its recovery.