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MeetGB Virtual: confidence ahead, but social distance rules must change

The leaders of the UK primary convention bureaux are positive about the future of the events industry. Representatives from VisitBritain, VisitScotland, VisitBelfast, VisitWales and London & Partners joined Business Visits and Event Partnership (BVEP) chair Simon Hughes for a discussion as part of MeetGB, where they were asked for their views on how the immediate future would impact the industry.

In the session, Kerrin Macphie, the head of business events at VisitBritain, revealed that they would be releasing an industry standard mark, which would reassure clients that the venue they are working with complies to safety standards.

VisitWales’ Heledd Williams said that collaboration between industry stakeholders would be vital in rebuilding regional events businesses.

Neil Brownlee, head of business events at VisitScotland, added that the Covid-19 crisis has brought forward changes to the industry that were inevitable, such as an increase focus of hybrid events. He also noted that VisitScotland would be targeting domestic business in the short term to help fill the void of international events, for the which impact is expected to last a lot longer.

Responding to a question from Conference News, London & Partners’ director of business tourism and major events Tracy Halliwell noted that the Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the value of being a member of either a convention bureau or association.

“Our members and partners have seen the value of what we are doing. But it goes beyond convention bureaux, it is membership of associations in general. We need to have a choice and have a unified voice saying the same thing. You don’t have that voice as one business on your own. The people serious about doing business in the future will now see the value of convention bureaux and associations.”

Simon Hughes also handled the matter of social distancing guidelines, which at the present two metres make it unviable for many businesses to reopen.

He said: “Operating the two-metre social distance is creating massive problems, some venues won’t even bother opening. A conference centre I know well with a 2,500 capacity would be able to host 436 people if they follow the rules. We are presenting evidence to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to urge people to think about the economic impact of working within restrictions. We’re pushing very hard on that.”

Meet GB Virtual returns on 23 June. Register here: www.visitbritain.com/meetgb