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Events industry economic value: minister highlights need for data

Consolidated and credible data is critical for the UK treasury to understand the true economic value of the business meeting and events sector, tourism minister Nigel Huddleston has said.

Speaking during at the Meetings Industry Association’s Ignite conference 4 November, he said the Government “was committed to working closely with the sector” as the UK emerges from the pandemic. 

In response to a question from Conference News about what the Treasury specifically wanted to see, the minister reaffirmed that accurate, auditable data was the only way to prove the sector’s value.

Read: The SIC of it: why has the events industry been left behind

While the minister did not talk about Standardised Industrial Classification (SIC) codes, they remain a key tool used by both the Treasury and Office for National Statistics (ONS) when gauging the scale of an industry. At present, only four of the 752 SIC codes relate in any way to the events industry, and even then are classified among other sectors and miscellaneous services. Anecdotally, it could take at least 35 codes to correctly measure the industry in full, on the premise that all events businesses opted to use them.

In essence, for as long as the events industry cannot be measured accurately by the UK Government, it must provide as much auditable data as possible, which can be presented via the trade associations.

On the topic of data, Huddleston said: “We want to work closely with the sector to ensure it is set for the future. We want it to be ambitious in its sustainability, offering quality careers for young people across the country, as well as being a sector that makes data-driven decisions.”

As such, the minister expressed his support for the association’s in-house data portal, miaTouchstone.

“On this point, I do want to commend the mia for their work in developing the miaTouchstone data platform as this is exactly the type of information that we value as we look to build a more detailed data picture of the UK event and tourism sector as a whole, and I’d encourage those members and indeed non-members who haven’t done so already to take a closer look at it,” he added. 

Taking questions from delegates he stressed the importance of the sector providing unified data to government. He said: “It empowers me to have meaningful conversations with the treasury about the size and scale of the sector and how important it is. Fragmentation causes real problems dealing with the relationship between government and business.” 

Adding to this, he said: “The integrity of the data is key and that is why the mia and other industry bodies are so important. The more you can come together and get that data in a comfortable format, consolidate it as one informed industry voice, the better it is for the sector and enables me to do my job better as well.”

Conference review

Following Huddleston’s address, a series of pioneering futurists took to the stage to deliver the programme, which was designed to demonstrate how the sector needs to respond and evolve to recover. Highlights included inspiring sessions from multi-generation expert Dr Eliza Filby and business anthropologist Lucia Laurent-Neva, as well as FutureFoodService’s Simon Stenning and German Convention Bureau’s Matthias Schultze. 

Adeptly drawing attention to sustainability, Green Tourism’s Scott Maclean discussed the drive to net zero revealing a new strategic partnership with the mia will be announced in the new year to champion standards. 

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association, said: “This was a highly insightful and inspiring day offering new ways of thinking that business leaders can now take back to their own operations. What is clear, and was reinforced and demonstrated throughout the day, is the importance of data and we have a huge opportunity to provide the exact collaborative insight that the government requires to demonstrate the value and impact of our sector to the economy. And, we can do just that, if the sector engages with us and uses our new business intelligence platform miaTouchstone.”