The Christmas countdown has begun – how is the party planning coming along?
October 10, 2018
Spotlight on…Kelly Stevens
October 12, 2018

Over the summer Bournemouth-based venue-finder specialist acquired ABC Connection Ltd, in a move that the company says makes it the largest supplier of venue data, venue sourcing software and annual accommodation RFP provider in the UK. The acquisition strengthens the position of in the UK and will also provide the opportunity for the business to grow globally. At Venues and Events International we were users of ABC Connection and delighted by the news of the acquisition which will only strengthen our offering to our own clients by an increased database. With this in mind, we put the ‘Spotlight’ on Managing Director for, Michael Begley, to get the lowdown.

  1. Tell us – who is Michael Begley?

I’m the Managing Director of, heading up the UK’s no1 venue finding website. My background stems from both hotels and agency work where my path has crossed with Anita on numerous occasions and I’m delighted that I can now finally work with her to help grow our individual businesses. We both have a similar culture within our businesses that will reflect in the outputs for each of our clients. was created back in 1993 and when I took over in 2008 I thought it would be a great idea to add to this well-established cornerstone of the venue finding world, the booking tool GRATIS, which has since gone on to be a huge industry success. To continue growing this success, in July this year we bought ABC Connection with the intention of helping to consolidate the market. This was a strategic move made by us to make it easier for venues to only update one platform.

  1. Why

As I said, my background stems from both the agency and hotel world where I was working on different platforms and found that data was held in different places. I wanted the opportunity to create a platform where venues could centralise their data, allowing properties to update one central place where data will be distributed from.

I saw this opportunity with and I’m delighted with the progress we’ve made and how we’ve been successful in making it as easy as possible for people to get the data they need from a venue-real time functionality that supports booking platforms.

  1. The recent acquisition of ABC Connection by – what will this mean for clients of Venues and Events International?

We’re a technology driven company and want to be at the forefront of booking processes. With large meetings, everything is done by RFP – the venues complete the RFP of which the client reviews and this works fantastically for multiple events. But what about the smaller, one-off meetings?

62% represent small meetings of less than 20 and we wanted to look at how we could support these bookings moving forward to provide a better future and overcome the challenge of booking a small meeting room the next day.

By acquiring ABC Connection, we aim to be a bigger voice, with a bigger platform and utilise booking power to the market.

  1. What’s your vision and the future for

My aim is to look at how we take what we’ve done in the UK to Europe, Asia and worldwide. I want to look at how we globalise the business moving forward and the acquisition of ABC Connection certainly helps that. Their booking tool has hundreds of thousands of international properties and although specialised in accommodation, we can cross reference the meeting space with their global data to enhance our platform to specialise in international meetings.

  1. Describe a ‘typical’ day at

We’re genuinely in quite early to decide what our goals for that day will be. It starts with a ‘morning heads up’ session where we all get together as a team, including our sales/marketing/IT and venue teams share ideas, to determine where support is needed. We’re always looking for new opportunities and who else can we connect with and we discuss these each and every day to ensure we’re ahead of the game and on top of industry developments.

Once our ‘heads up’ session is finished it’s them my aim to get out with clients. I’m out at least three times a week working with them to understand their needs and what more we can do to support. Our clients are at the heart of what we do, so much so that we run two forums a year where we invite our clients to join us and help us plan our strategy roadmap.

Although at the time of this interview our ‘morning heads-up’ session had over run and was slightly late for my 3pm interview which goes to show its never a ‘typical’ day.

  1. What top tip would you give to anyone coming into the industry?

It might not necessarily be a top tip for those coming into the industry but more for those welcoming them in. It’s so important that you nurture young talent within the business as they are ‘your business’. Give them responsibility early on, allow them to fall down but support them by picking them up again, helping to find their feet and include technology in every step of the way.

We have an open transparent culture here at and appreciate that employees will not always stay with us as opportunities elsewhere may arise that we cannot compete with. We had an employee start with us 3 years ago who wanted to get into events. We recognised her passion so reached out to Dalata Hotels who worked with us to give her event experience three days a week within their hotels. We’re a small industry that wants to grow, we need to work together to help our talent grow and ensure they stay within the industry.

  1. What’s your favourite destination/venue?

This changes all the time as places and venues develop. I discovered Croatia five years ago and explored what this amazing country and culture had to offer. However, I’ve now progressed onto Montenegro – I love finding new things that excite me all the time.

It’s the same with venues, my tastes regularly change here. I recently visited the Principal London following their refurbishment, and wow what a refurb! The attention to detail is beyond special – brass beads on every corner so that if anyone catches their bag it wouldn’t scratch. It’s been executed so well. But I know full well that my preference on hotel will change in the future as hotels continue to make further investments.

  1. What gives you that #FridayFeeling?

To see what young people can achieve and how I can help them develop.