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Meetings Industry Association urges caution after Government releases “ambiguous” guidance

The Meetings Industry Association (mia) has urged the business meetings and events sector to remain cautious after the latest Government guidance was released, 2 December.

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the mia, described the latest business meetings and events guidance as “ambiguous” in places as to what is and what isn’t permissible in each of the England's Tiers from 2 December. She noted there was particular confusion around the complicated elements of catering controls.

Read the Government's latest guidance here.

“There are questions to be asked around the totally unexpected guidance that multi-day events are not permissible in any Tier,” Longhurst said. “We will be investigating if there are any exceptions to this and will be providing a summary to our members later this week.

The guidance does outline that business meetings and events can take place at a cap of 50% of the venue’s capacity or for up 1,000 delegates – whichever is the lowest – in Tiers 1 and 2.

Tier 3 guidance details that smaller business meetings are advised against, but that they may take place for up to 30 for permitted reasons such as education and training.

Longhurst added that the association is still awaiting confirmation from the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) if any updates are required to the Roadmap to Reopening and Operating Safely guidance, which is signposted on the government’s website for venues to follow.

“In the meantime, we urge the sector to exercise caution and operate by the spirit of the guidance,” she added.

This week, details have also emerged of the awards dinner pilot event, which took place at Wyboston Lakes Resort (pictured) in September. The venue, together with mia, worked together to host a mock awards dinner as part of the government’s pilot events to test the COVID-Secure guidelines that all venues must follow.

The mock dinner event for 120 people took place at the Bedfordshire-based Resort’s Woodlands Event Centre in accordance with the Covid-Secure guidelines and was observed by officials from Public Health England.

The conference, meetings and training venue was recommended to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) as part of the mia’s regular liaison, which has also seen the trade association’s roadmap signposted as a key resource in the Government’s and UK Hospitality’s guidance.

The trade association managed the pre-registration work and used its miaTrustedTrace tool to health screen as well as collect and manage delegate details, which included DCMS and Public Health England staff and event industry professionals. It also managed attendee expectations with detailed guidance provided prior to the event and supported the venue with the queuing and registration processes on the day.

The venue has remained open in 2020 to provide facilities for essential training for the National Crime Agency and for paramedics for the NHS and it has been running Covid-Secure meetings for less than 30 people. Key measures already in place at the venue and utilised during the pilot event included thermal imaging technology, test, track and trace data collection, online pre-registration, one-way systems, strict cleaning and sanitising processes and a maximum of three guests per table.

Steve Jones, managing director of Wyboston Lakes Resort and chair of the mia, said that the pilot event received “outstanding” feedback on how it was run. “I think we really showed that the industry has strong, safe and highly effective plans in place and organisers can be confident about booking and arranging business events,” he said.

“The industry guidelines and procedures are now tried and tested, ready for 2 December when the Government allows our industry to welcome back business meetings for up to 1,000 people indoors if the venue is located in a region with an appropriate tier.”

Read the Government's latest guidance here.