Over twenty CEOs from many of the UK’s leading destinations, event venues and creative agencies met online last week as part of the UK Events Industry Board’s Leaders Panel to discuss the government’s support for the UK’s £70bn business events sector with Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, Nigel Huddleston MP.
The Minister asked attendees for their thoughts and comments and said that he would raise their concerns and recommendations wherever possible. The group discussed the government’s economic measures and whether they were providing enough support for the entire events industry, what other challenges the industry was facing and what further support is needed from government.
While members of the panel warmly welcomed the recent economic measures from the government, there were a number of concerns regarding cash flow and additional flexibility on its Job Retention Scheme to include eligibility for event venues and event agencies.
The Minister acknowledged that many businesses and individuals in the events industry were struggling because of COVID-19. He noted that he was grateful to the many organisations helping amidst the crisis, in particular the ExCel Centre, the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and the Scottish Events Campus (SEC), which had become, or offered to become, temporary hospitals to support the NHS.
Members shared the following recommendations with the Minister:
- Collaboration and clear communication on the loosening/end of social distancing and mass gatherings restrictions. Members recommended that the government work with the industry to plan and develop clear communication of the loosening of these measures to ensure the industry can return to work sustainably and at scale. Members also recommended that clear communication and government advocacy was needed to reassure travellers and consumers that the UK is safe
- Further measures to improve cash flow for businesses/self-employed workers would be appreciated. Other economic and policy recommendations included the government providing additional funding to the British Tourist Authority (BTA) to support the business events industry through its programmes and marketing campaigns and the government enabling an accessible and welcoming visa scheme for business travellers.
- Use the events industry as a catalyst to ‘kick-start’ and recover the economy after the COVID-19 crisis. Members noted that major international events can provide significant inward trade and investment opportunities in key government industries and shape international perceptions of the UK. They also noted that the events industry can support hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The Minister actively encouraged members to continue to communicate their concerns and recommendations through industry trade bodies and noted his intention to host another panel with the advisory panel in the coming weeks.