Smooth in-house operators HATA members take it upon themselves to organise and execute their 45 th convention in Dubai, and find that careful planning pays off, writes Prudence Lui Event brief The last time the annual convention of the Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents (HATA) ventured to a faraway land was 17 years ago in Capetown and Johannesburg, and the association was keen to organise its 2018 edition somewhere different. The organisation of the convention would eventually fall on the shoulders of its two office staff and a 10-member convention committee, as HATA decided against hiring an event planner. Challenges The first challenge was to find a suitable destination that provided visa-free access, daily direct flights served by multiple carri- ers, and that is safe for travellers. Significant considerations also had to be made about the convention theme. It had to be one that would attract participa- tion and inspire speakers and attendees to brainstorm visions and solutions to benefit the industry. As well, HATA had to balance registration fees and sponsorship with expenditure. Without an events contractor, it meant immense workload for HATA’s convention committee. Solutions Dubai, which satisfied all conditions, was eventually chosen to host the HATA 45 th An- nual Overseas Convention. Convention committee chairman, Ed- mund Tsang, said the destination decision was made 10 months leading up to the event date. To ensure the convention committee was able to cope with the planning and execu- tion of the convention, the team mapped out a detailed timeline that took into account all critical tasks. Team members were all experienced in convention management, and with the support of skilled crew, they closely monitored the execution process from start to end. The convention committee chose to go with a theme that emphasised values needed to address future challenges. Hence, How Artificial Intelligence Impacts the Future of Travel was borne. Three keynote speakers were appointed: Antoine Medawar, senior vice president and managing director, Ama- deus for Middle East and Africa; Celia Lao, CEO, Air Asia for Hong Kong and Macao; and Lucas Leung, founder, TraVR HK. Recognising that content is king – and required to ensure strong participation, the convention committee built an attractive programme comprising keynote speeches, plenary sessions, break-out workshops and enrichment time for sightseeing, entertain- ment, spouse and social activities. Event The Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents (HATA) 45 th Annual Overseas Convention Organiser Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents Venue JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai Date October 12 to 14, 2018 Number of participants 116 In terms of enrichment, delegates got to see city sights and go on hotel inspections in Dubai. As well, options of two- and three-day post-conference tours to Abu Dhabi were offered. HATA received an overwhelming response for the convention. The Abu Dhabi post- conference tour, in particular, got snapped up swiftly. Altogether, the HATA 45 th Annual Overseas Convention was attended by 116 delegates – in excess of the targeted 110. To tackle sponsorship requirements, the convention committee established an ami- cable working relations with the sponsors to deliver brand alliances and value adds. Key takeaways HATA realised that the success of the 45 th Annual Overseas Convention in Dubai has set new standards for future editions and elevated the association’s standing in the hearts of members. Encouraged by the performance of the 2018 edition, HATA has started planning for its 2019 convention – and longhaul destinations are being considered again. HATA’s spokesperson also added that a key lesson from the organisation of the 45th An- nual Overseas Convention is the need for flex- ibility. For example, with the eager response seen for the Abu Dhabi post-show tour, HATA moved to add on another one-day tour to the destination for wait-listed delegates.