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Business events feature prominently in UK’s first ever tourism sector deal

The UK’s first-ever tourism sector deal is set to deliver a new government strategy to grow the number of business events and conferences in the UK.

The deal includes an International Business Events Action Plan that outlines the government’s aims for the sector.

Michael Hirst, chair of the Events Industry Board (EIB) and Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP) said: “We are delighted that business events feature so prominently in the deal with the supplementary publication of an International Business Events Action Plan. This is a very positive endorsement of the importance of the sector to showcase the UK key economic sectors, grow trade, exports and inward investment. It will also generate additional international business visitors and improve productivity through the utilisation of capacity across the UK. The opportunity to increase skills and attract talent is strongly featured in the deal as we move to a more competitive landscape. The UK has always been a world-class destination for business events. Now there’s a greater opportunity to attract and grow more international events throughout Britain.”

The government’s strategy is to create new international business events, attract more existing events to the UK, grow already successful events and retain those that might be thinking about leaving. It has created a set of criteria for identifying existing business events that it might support, with separate criteria for attracting events to the UK, growing existing events and creating new ones.

The tourism sector deal will also create 10,000 new apprenticeships in the tourism sector per year and see a £250,000 cash injection to improve broadband connectivity in conference centres across the UK for business visitors. The creation of a new Tourism Data Hub will revolutionise the way data is used by the sector, collating regularly updated data showing the latest trends and spends, allowing businesses to better target overseas visitors.

Last year around 38 million people visited the UK, contributing £23 billion to the local economy. By 2025 experts predict that there will be an additional 9 million visitors to the UK. The new deal commits to building an additional 130,000 hotel rooms to respond to the increased demand for infrastructure.

The deal also outlines the government’s ambitions for the UK to become the most accessible destination for disabled visitors, through improvement of disabled facilities and access to destinations across the country.

Prime minister Theresa May said: “As one of the most visited countries in the world, the UK is a world leader in international tourism and it is crucial that we remain globally competitive to meet growing demands.

“That’s why today I am pleased to announce the UK’s first ever tourism sector deal, ensuring that we continue to innovate, boost connectivity and economic productivity, expand career pathways and breakdown barriers for visitors with disabilities.

“This deal recognises the important role tourism plays, and will continue to play, in showcasing what our great country has to offer.”

UKinbound chair James Aitken welcomed the deal, saying: “Tourism is a major contributor to the UK economy but is made up primarily of small businesses and cuts across many different policy areas. For the first time, we will have a national strategy that will help bring the sector together and collaborate on activities and initiatives.

“This will ultimately help visitors get to destinations quickly and easily, have a better experience in those destinations, improve productivity and efficiency and raise awareness about the fantastic employment opportunities the industry provides.”

Other commitments in the Tourism Sector Deal include:

• More than 130,000 new hotel rooms are set to be built across the UK, with 75 per cent being built outside of London.
• £250,000 to improve broadband connectivity in conference centres across the UK for business visitors.
• Pilot of up to five new Tourism Zones to drive visitor numbers across the country. Zones will receive Government support for growing their local visitor economy, through initiatives like targeted support for product and promotion development, mentoring support to businesses and digital skills training.
• 10,000 employees in the sector to benefit from new mentorship schemes.
• A new government strategy to grow the number of business events and conferences, helping to drive off-season visitors.

Developed in partnership with the British Tourist Authority and Industry, the sector deal forms part of the UK Government’s Modern Industrial Strategy supporting the continued growth of the tourism sector, ensuring the UK remains globally competitive as a top tourist destination.