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Event associations welcome PM's announcement, while travel industry calls for more

Four of the UK’s event industry associations representing the conference, meetings, and exhibitions sectors, have welcomed the news that now sees business events treated consistently with other formats.

The Meetings Industry Association (mia), Association of Event Organisers (AEO), Association of Event Venues (AEV), and the Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA), have released a joint statement, 24 November, saying that, among other things, they are pleased with the move towards rapid testing.

“The business events sector warmly welcomes today’s Prime Minister’s announcement that the sector will be able to reopen under the revised Tier system,” the statement read. “This integrates the business events sector with sports and performing arts sectors, providing the consistency for which the associations have been fighting.

“Since the start of the pandemic members of all four associations have worked tirelessly with their constituency MP’s and Government officials to get the industry reopened. The news provides welcome relief to many individuals and businesses hit hard when the industry was stopped suddenly in March 2020.”

The statement added the communication with Government had “never been stronger” and thanked officials at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The statement added: “The associations have welcomed initiatives such as rapid testing and the deployment of vaccines, all of which will be needed to rebuild the position of economic powerhouse occupied by the sector before the pandemic.”

Capacity limits remain in place, however, but the associations expressed a positive outlook as the industry looks to rebuild confidence among its client base. “While the road to recovery will no doubt have a few bumps, this is a start,” the statement concluded.

Inbound travel has also seen changes, with quarantine reduced to five days with the inclusion of a Covid test.

However, Joss Croft, CEO of travel trade association UKinbound said that, despite reducing quarantine being a step in the right direction, the prospect of visitors having to self-isolate for any length of time will impede demand and therefore risk jobs in the UK's inbound tourism industry.

“Tourism is a competitive business, and when we can travel again, we need a best-in-class testing regime, negating the need for a lengthy self-isolation, otherwise competitors who do have these systems will reap the benefit,” he said.

“Tourism will be able to significantly aid the UK’s economic recovery but right now businesses are struggling to survive and until a more rigorous system is in place, international visitors will not return in numbers.”

Croft called on the Government to provide a targeted resilience fund for inbound tourism businesses and access to grants from which they have previously been excluded. “[This will] ensure they can survive the winter.”

Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association (BTA) was less enthusiastic with the changes to travel rules, and said it was “only a small step” towards opening Britain for business. 

“These tardy and incomplete recommendations undermine our ability to compete in the global marketplace,” he said.

Wratten called on the Government to introduce a requirement for all travellers into and out of the UK to have a pre-departure test. “It must also give business travel an exemption from the blunt and misguided quarantine measures,” he added.