According to Zibrant chairman Nigel Cooper, rising costs, regulations and red tape are the biggest obstacles facing the UK events industry. "We have to compete against other cities and we’re not always on a level playing field. There are heavy levels of compliance, for example, and certain things we can’t win due to rules or regulations," he says. "We need to work with the government to find systems and processes that make it easier."
For Randle Stonier, CEO of AddingValue, David Cameron’s commitment to the business tourism and events sector is a ‘positive first step’. However, he admits he’s conscious of politicians making ‘sweeping statements’ and is unsure how it will play out in reality. "The priority has to be continued economic revival. If we have a good economy, a sensible exchange rate and well-communicated benefits then we’ll attract the events we want."
Infrastructure, affordability and safety
In terms of specifics, Stonier says the UK, particularly London, needs to ‘up its game’ when it comes to attracting international B2B events. "At the moment we have a serious lack of large, affordable business hotels and convention centres in London," he explains. "It’s a very expensive city and though we like to think we’re unique, we will lose business to other destinations if we don’t make it a more attractive option for businesses."
Affordability and infrastructure aren’t the only factors when it comes to attracting international events. "Safety is a huge priority for people booking events - just look at the recent situation in Tunisia," says Stonier. He adds that with the threat of terrorism still looming over the UK, safety and security should be key priorities for any government board focused on enhancing the UK’s event industry.
Red tape reduction
James Rees, executive director of ExCeL London believes London is ready to compete internationally in terms of infrastructure, but needs further government support to attract more international traffic. "London can now compete on the world stage, as demonstrated in securing world-leading events such as The European Society of Cardiology 2015 (35,000 delegates), HP Discover 2015 (12,000 delegates) and Sibos 2019 (7,000 delegates)," he explains. "In the future, we would like to see improvements to the visa system and a limit to rises in air passenger tax, enabling international delegates to travel to London more easily."
London & Partners has also expressed its support for the new board, hoping that it will identify the events Britain should be bidding for. "Our strategy in recent years has focused on targeting larger scale conventions and corporate meetings where the destination is contestable and London has a strong chance of winning a bid," says Tracy Halliwell, director of business tourism & major events, at London & Partners.
She adds that it’s crucial for the events and business tourism industries to pull together, to secure the right events for the UK. These thoughts are echoed by Nick de Bois, former chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Events and Conservative MP, who says this new board is exactly what the events sector needs. "It gives the industry a voice at the top table of government."
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