Each issue we speak to an ABTA employee about their work. This time: Claire Biddle, partnerships manager.
As ABTA’s partnerships manager my role is to support the 180 corporate partners that provide business products and services to Members.
The partners are a friendly and diverse bunch, specialising in various sectors such as law, finance, marketing and communications, technology and also include tourist boards and ground handling services. Many of the partners have been with ABTA since we first launched the scheme back in 2007, which is a testament to the value they place in it. On a normal day, I arrange meetings with partners to understand more about their expertise and work that they are involved in. This helps me to think of ways in which they could best support our Members. I then work with the partners to help them communicate to Members via our range of partnership benefits. Popular partnership benefits include speaking opportunities at ABTA events, contributing to ABTA’s Travel Law publication, and arranging targeted marketing campaigns.
This year has turned “normal” upside down and brought immense new challenges. I have worked in the travel industry for over 20 years with a background in product development and retail travel. Over this time I’ve supported customers through events such as 9/11, the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud, tsunamis and numerous terror attacks. However, Covid-19 has taken us all by surprise; four months seems a very long time ago. It has impacted many of ABTA’s Partners in similar ways to Members with many businesses providing services exclusively to the travel sector, services which they have seen cease overnight.
Many partners have the resources to help members throughout the ongoing crisis, but due to travel and social distancing restrictions our main communication channel, ABTA’s events, have had to be postponed.
So how do we now keep Partners and Members connected? How do we keep the support networks open and people talking? The pandemic has changed everything. Overnight, Members were required to think about how to retain their most important asset – their employees – with no new income; how to receive funding to keep themselves afloat; how to protect the health and safety and mental wellbeing of staff with new ways of working at home; how to manage contractual risk and negotiate with suppliers; how to manage communication with customers at a highly charged emotional time; and when and how to return to the workplace. Not least what legal risks might be posed to business owners and directors. Never has there been a time when so many decisions have had to be made in such a short space of time.
ABTA responded to this crisis by moving its events to a new webinar series, delivering practical information to help businesses navigate through some of these concerns. These events were made free for both Members and Partners to join.
We also developed a new Partner Support Hub. The hub aims to share information and industry news. ABTA’s partners have been active, sharing regular updates to create a library of resources for Members and Partners. To date, some of the free resources provided include helplines, virtual workshops, technology trials, risk assessment documentation, articles, whitepapers and more.
This new resource has been well-received with over 1,000 unique views in the first few weeks. Partners continue to contribute to the hub keeping Members informed of any changes that are happening in the industry.
It is probably worth me ending with the fact that, in order to become a partner, businesses are required to apply and are subject to various due diligence checks, so we would always recommend looking for the ABTA Partner logo when selecting a service provider.