NAME:  Shahnaz Bakhshay


POSITION: Senior director of sales

What are you working on right now in anticipation of a return of events?

At TFE Hotels, we recently launched our Clean Touch charter to market to give the market confidence that we, as a company, are going over and above WHO recommendations during the pandemic, and to give visibility of our enhanced safety protocols and our commitment to client wellbeing in our hotels and event spaces.  We’ll continue to roll out and update our clients as needed.

Right now, my team is busy updating our terms and conditions to suit the current climate. We’re preparing to launch nine brand new hotels in the Australian and New Zealand market before the end of the year, and we’re ensuring that all of our event and hotel information is current across all distribution channels.

What’s one lesson you have learnt during the COVID-19 lockdown period?

I’ve learned that we can’t plan for what we can’t predict. The secret to navigating turbulent times and to success in the short term is being agile and adapting to both the changing landscape and changing client requirements.  At the same time, to ensure long term success, it’s necessary to think beyond tomorrow, which can be hard to do in the middle of a pandemic when the world you know is turned on its head. I also firmly believe that innovative thinking is critical in navigating the current crisis.

What do you value more now than you may have pre-COVID-19?

The strength of teamwork across an organisation, innovative thinking and the value of strong alliances with our key partners – these attributes is priceless and have stood us in good stead during the pandemic.

How do you think events will change in the future?

Who could’ve predicted the way 2020 would unfold?  I don’t have a crystal ball, but I believe hybrid events – blended physical as well as virtual meetings – are the way of the future.  They’re somewhat of a necessity whilst borders remain closed, but there are some positives to this model that I think our industry should embrace once life returns to the next normal.

We’re already seeing the evolution of hotel buffets and we’ll see this in the events space as well. I think we’ll move to live stations, and meeting breaks may get a facelift with the introduction of individual lunch boxes instead of platters.

On the business side of things, we’re currently seeing short lead times, more flexibility with room layouts because of social distancing guidelines and basic catering options. For the longer-term enquiries, leads are coming through, however decisions are taking longer because of the sheer unknown of what’s ahead… and that’s okay.

Why are events important?

Technology is incredible, but I believe that nothing can replace face-to-face interactions. It’s how teams bond and engage, how industry partnerships strengthen and how people become passionate and engaged about the work that they do. Plus, events are a cost-effective way to roll out new products, services or experiences and receive feedback almost immediately.