Tim Birley suddenly passed away on 27th March. He was the National Business Development manager for Pan Pacific Hotels Group. Highly regarded within the business events and hospitality communities, Tim was recognised as always professional, cheerful and a gentleman.
After two long years of COVID restrictions and misery for hospitality & event professionals, The Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME) finally took place and Tim could be seen on the show floor, cheerfully reconnecting with colleagues and friends. This made his sudden death just days later, all the more shocking.
Three of his friends and colleagues share some memories of Tim and the impact he has had on their lives.
Laura Baker: Director Sales & Marketing Pan Pacific Perth
“I’ve known Tim for a relatively short time in comparison to other colleagues in our business. I’ve been with Pan Pacific for a year. From the moment I met and talked with him over the phone, he was so warm, welcoming and giving. He was willing to share his expertise and knowledge with newer members of the team and I think that can be quite rare these days. He’s incredibly supportive – and a lot of us saw him as ‘Papa bear’. He was just that pillar of strength in the team. In addition to being that source of support for you he had this amazing bubbly personality. He was great to work with because he lived and breathed hospitality. A true hotelier and gentleman. I don’t know anyone who would have a bad word to say about him, he’s one person that everyone loved. He’s been around the bush – he’s been in the industry for over 35 years and he knows his stuff. His clients and colleagues are not just clients and colleague, they’re friends, mentors, they’re family.
It was so great to see him in his element at AIME. And I’m so grateful that everyone got to reconnect with him and just spend that time with him after two years of being locked in our houses, living in a virtual world. Everyone was able to spend that time together – it was gold.
Tim’s table at AIME was the hottest one and because he was so tall, you could always see where he was and he always had people around him. He was an amazing networker.
He was just a gent, a beautiful human being.”
Nadia Dambrosi: Director of Sales & Marketing Accor Hotels
“I met Tim in 2014 when I started at [Park Royal] Darling Harbour. I hadn’t even been 12 months in sales and this big burly man, Tim Birley walked in. At first, I was somewhat intimidated by him – he was so experienced and brought so much ‘wow’ with his presence. But I learned quickly that Tim had so much knowledge he was willing to give. He took me under his wing. We were more like a brother and sister. He took me to my first trade show and meeting. He showed me the ‘Tim Birley way’ when it came to things like site inspections.
Tim was a leader in what he did and I thought “I want to learn from this man”. Throughout my whole career, even when I left Pan Pacific, he was a supporter. He made sure I would meet people. He’d go “Nadia darling this is so and so”. Whoever it was he made sure I could connected to them. Not everyone does that in our industry. Sometimes people get a bad rap, but not Tim. Beyond that we became close friends and I spoke with him on a weekly basis.
My biggest memory – Last year I spent time in hospital. Tim would come to visit and he baked for me, the nurses and other patients. I spent two lots of eight weeks in hospital and he was there for me. That really hit home for me. He was thoughtful, caring and kind and he wasn’t loud or boisterous about that.
When I heard [about his death] I didn’t believe it. I speak with Laura Brooks every day. She told me and I said “No that’s not true”.
It’s funny how things work out in life – Just before it happened he’d had a family catch up, he’d had AIME, and even the week before – and I don’t usually say this to Tim – he called me but I was at our media launch and I said “I can’t talk now, I’ve gotta go but I love you” and he said “I love you too”. It was just weird. In hindsight you’ve got to wonder?”
Julie Leigh: National Sales Manager Pan Pacific Hotels Group
“Tim, where do I start? I’ve only known Tim since 2019. I joined in April 2019 to be part of the national sales team. I work in the leisure space and Tim was my opposite number, focusing on conferences, meetings and events.
We formed a close working bond, working and supporting each other. We talked regularly but I think where we bonded most was during COVID. Like many other industry professionals we went through a tough time. There was no international business and not a lot of meetings or events stuff. So, both of us went down to working just one day a week for pretty much a year. That was hard, particularly here in Victoria with our lockdown. I don’t know, but we just connected. It’s difficult to explain but we were like a lifeline to each other every day – sometimes twice a day to check in on each other, see how we both doing. We both chatted about everything and nothing – how much we hated working from home, just stuff.
He was always there to bounce ideas off. Sometimes, if you have a bad day and wanted to vent and know it wouldn’t go any further. Tim was just a lovely person and the outpouring of grief from the industry is incredible.
Everyone was on the stand at AIME and before he went to the airport it was hugs all round. Everyone without exception just loved him. There aren’t many people that you come across like Tim.
I’m still pretty flat and just yesterday I saw I had new messages on my phone. After I listened to them I saw an old message from Tim. It was so lovely to hear his voice and I don’t know whether I’m going to ever delete that message.
I’ve got his number on my phone and I’m waiting for the day that “Tim Birley” pops up on it – I know its not going to happen.”
An industry memorial was held for Tim Birley held on the 13th April 2022.