Black Tomato evacuates incentive group from Paris

The Black Tomato Agency evacuated an 85-strong incentive group from Paris a day earlier than planned on Saturday, following the terror attacks on Friday night.

The incentive group was dining at a venue close to one of the seven attacks, which took place across the French capital.

"The people who were out in Paris knew less about what was going on than we did back home, due to the chaos," explained Elliott Grant, business director. "We were feeding them information from the UK, keeping them calm and informed about what was going on."

The group, which was due to stay in Paris from Thursday 12 November until Sunday 15, were told to stay in the restaurant until the attacks stopped, before being guided in small groups back to their hotels.

A train back to London was arranged for the following afternoon. "We didn’t want to move the group in one go as it would look conspicuous and we’d be a potential target," said Grant. "Everyone was told to stay in the hotel while we updated them constantly through a group message service."

The agency contacted the head of operations as soon as the attacks took place. "Logistically, we wanted to get everyone back safely and reunited with their families as quickly as possible. We had new boarding passes printed and onwards travel arrangements sorted out immediately for every delegate. I went back to Paris to meet the group with their new passes and to ensure everyone got back."

Grant said that he was incredibly proud of the onsite team. "They were professional throughout, keeping the group calm and informed at all times in the most horrendous of circumstances." He added that he hoped the attacks wouldn't deter future groups from choosing Paris as an event destination.

Other business events across the city were also affected by the terror attacks, including a series of Airbnb technology meet-ups, which were due to follow last week's Airbnb Open conference. Meanwhile Ground Handling International announced on its website that it had made the difficult decision to cancel the 17th Annual Ground Handling International Conference in Paris, which was due to take place from 16-19 November.

Meanwile, China's largest Paris incentive trip, a 4,000-strong group from Pro-Health China, is continuing in spite of the terrorist attacks.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) issued a statement in response to the attacks, pledging to work with governments, private industry and business travellers to ensure the future safety and security of the global travel system.

"On behalf of the Global Business Travel Association, let me express our deepest sympathies to the French people and to those directly affected by the attacks," said Christle Johnson, president of GBTA.  "We stand with the people of France today. French President François Hollande, understandably, has closed the borders of France, declared a state of emergency, and called for three days of mourning. As a result a number of travelers are stranded in France. As a strong and unified business travel industry, we will do everything we can to provide resources to these travellers in this time of need."

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