Minister commits to event sector support

Tourism Minister Margaret Hodge has pledged to support 20 events annually, following talks with the Business Tourism Partnership (BTP). Hodge has also offered support for streamline and uniform health and safety regulations at event venues, and promised to hold further discussions with UK Visas in an effort to alleviate difficulties for group business travellers caused by the cost of UK entry visas. Her support for the industry comes in the wake of a meeting on 26 October with a delegation from BTP, which included Eventia, Visit Britain, Events Industry Alliance and Meetings Industry Association representatives. The group met with Hodge and Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) director, Brian Leonard in a bid to raise Government awareness of the financial value of the UK event industry and gain support in promotion of the sector. The meeting followed a government announcement on 24 October that Visit Britain’s funding would be cut from the current £49.6m to £40.6m in 2010/11. During the meeting, Eventia executive director Izania Downie and Grass Roots Group director of events services Mark Taylor highlighted the C&I travel and corporate hospitality opportunities that would be created by the 2012 Olympic Games. Downie said 50-70% of the Olympics’ net economic benefit would come through tourism and 67% of the economic benefit would materialise in the five years after the Games. “Business tourism will contribute a significant amount of this benefit,” said Downie. “It’s so important that the DCMS takes this on board and helps us to maximise the opportunities the Games present – and I think this meeting has really gone a long way in raising awareness.” BTP chairman Michael Hirst summarised: “The Minister (Hodge) told us that government intends to punch harder to support us. However, the cuts in Visit Britain funding will do little to achieve the strategic aim to reinforce Britain’s reputation as a world-class destination for visits and events.”

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