Events Board Business

Nick de Bois, chairman of the Events Industry Board blogs for C&IT on his experiences getting events on the agenda for the industry.

During the summer, the UK events industry took an active part in both the pre-referendum debate and subsequently in discussions on what Brexit should look like as the new government set about its task of preparing for negotiations to exit the EU. The Business Visits & Events Partnership have been coordinating industry responses to Brexit and this will form part of the UK Events Industry Boards report back to the Secretary of State at the Department of Culture Media and Sport very shortly.

Long before the advisory board was established, I and my colleagues on the board have argued that the extraordinary dynamic and successful events sector that we have in the UK needed to have its voice heard at the policy making table of government. Given the events over the summer this belief has taken on much more significance. I am confident, that along with trade and representative bodies, we are well placed to ensure that, as the tectonic plates of politics and business move so significantly we can ensure government hears directly the concerns, but also and perhaps more importantly, how to exploit the opportunities to help deliver continued success for UK events.

Although the outcome of the referendum surprised many people, and subsequently dominated events during the summer, I am nonetheless pleased to report that as the new administration took shape, the new boards main goals of helping support the drive for more business visitors to the UK for congresses, events and exhibitions has been progressing well.

In particular this summer saw the launch of the Event Support Program which is being coordinated by VisitBritain, which has to date received a total of fifteen full applications from across the UK. The newly instituted Event Support Panel begins its first assessment later this month. We have had a wide range of bids seeking different levels of support, that share the common aim of seeking to increase substantially the business visitor numbers to the UK, as well as trade and investment opportunities through either delivering new events or expanding existing ones.

This industry does not lack talent, expertise or experience, but neither should it lack ambition and the second round of applications for Event Support should focus on international events that destinations feel are key targets right for their cities, and that their chances of success in securing those events can be enhanced with the combination of financial and extensive government “soft power” support. We must not miss this opportunity. In the meantime, research is underway to determine the impact and probability of securing specific events that are in the UK’s strategic interests to host in the longer term.

Of course, securing hard cash financial support from government to help secure an increase in business visitors to the UK is very welcome. But we all know that financial support is only part of the solution. The board have been very keen to harness the so called “soft power” of government to help support bids that help secure new and expanding business events to the UK. With support from senior government ministers during the bid process with relevant letters of government endorsement, rolling out the red carpet, using many of the UK’s wonderful historic buildings, and hosting visiting delegations we can help our private sector clinch those hugely important international congresses and events that help drive the UK’s inward investment, exports and business tourism economies. Presently DCMS are continuing to support and co-ordinate this support and the board hope to have in place a formal process and criteria of selection by the year end.

In the medium to longer term however there is much still do. The most pressing task is preparing to take the board’s recommendations to government ministers on measures to remove existing barriers to growth, or to put it more concisely; how can we make the UK a more attractive destination of choice by reducing bureaucratic obstacles that put us at a disadvantage to other international locations? This an area where we can make a big difference, not least the quality of reception for international business delegates at some of our airports for example, or providing additional support and advice for organisors considering the UK as a destination.

Drawing on the work of the Events Industry Board Competitiveness Sub Group’s, the BVEP Subvention Report and VisitBritain we will be making representations across government departments on these important issues. The really hard work will begin in trying to ensure our advice is implemented.

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