APPG events report: Key findings and recommendations

C&IT presents key findings and recommendations from the first ever All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) inquiry into the events industry, released today (16 December).

UK events industry calls for cut in visa red tape over financial support
UK events industry calls for cut in visa red tape over financial support

Key findings:

The industry recognised that it could be a key driver of the Government's 'growth agenda' by attracting high-growth industries to the UK. It was also noted that the Government could help the UK events industry to achieve its aspirations of growing from its present £36bn to a projected £48.4bn by 2020. 

The majority of evidence from the industry did not call for financial support from government, however, but rather a reduction of interventions that reduce the UK's competitiveness, such as visa and tax restrictions. The industry also raised the issue of the Schengen Visa, which is a barrier for major international delegations from China.

Despite a lack of subvention, the UK product is strong and attractive to international event organisers, although there is a negative perception over cost. 

Barriers to growth were exacerbated by the poor positioning of the business events industry within many sectors of government and, that whilst industry itself was effectively representing itself to government where it was possible to do so, it still operated in silos and a more coherent industry effort is also needed. 

Key recommendations to the UK events industry:

• A single professional organisation, funded by the industry, with representatives from leading bodies could help ensure a unified, coherent and consistent relationship is built with government, local authorities and regulatory bodies. This could be a better resourced BVEP to ensure the industry speaks with one voice.

• Sustainability and apprenticeships are both a key part of the government agenda, both as a stakeholder to the industry, but also as potential buyer. These areas should therefore be more widely embraced by the events industry.  

• The sharing of best practice across the sector was not evident in the inquiry and this should be coordinated through the BVEP. Suggested success stories could include the relationship between the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), Glasgow City Marketing Bureau and Visit Scotland.

• Industry to fully embrace the Ministerial Support Bid initiative and closer relations with UKTI, including the newly formed UKTI Events Alliance, to ensure stronger pitches for meeting and convention business. 

• Industry regional partnerships should be formed with local and regional authorities, as the "role of local authorities is paramount" to the UK's success as an event destination.

Key recommendations to government:

• The report urges government to create a special 'Events Visa'. This type of visa is being used for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, but it is recommended that it is extended to international trade shows, consumer and business-to-business events.

• A cross-departmental approach should be established to represent the best interests of the UK events industry. Its home should remain within Tourism at the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), but it will also have representation from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). 

• A feasibility study is set up to review if the tax-raising powers of local government to raise income for capital expenditure, that demonstrates a net benefit return for the local community, with the support of the local community by democratic consent, are sufficient to meet industry objectives.

• The treasury should include, within future economic impact studies, the impact of taxation within the events industry and specifically, but not exclusively:

1. The impact of APD on travel to major business and consumer events 

2. The impact of VAT on business event success 

• The Business Visits & Events Partnership (BVEP) and the Britain for Events campaign is fully recognised by government as the central and fully representative voice of the UK events industry. That representatives from country level DMOs, along with Visit Britain, be included on the partnership to share learning and best practice across UK destinations alongside the industry's many trade associations.

• That local authorities/DMOs work closely with businesses and organisations concerned with the events industry to develop a region-specific approach to subvention, not limited to purely fiscal support, but providing long-term and sustainable support for returning events business.

• That a communication programme e.g. conference is produced and delivered in partnership with the events industry and aimed at local authorities to promote the benefits of the events sector in local destinations, and to provide information and advice on subjects such as licensing and regulation, health and safety etc.

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