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Eventprofs at boiling point as Government frustrates yet again

The long-awaited publication of the findings of the Events Research Programme was looking like it could be a good news story for the sector.

However, despite just 28 Covid cases having been linked to the nine pilot events that made up Phase I of the Events Research Programme, the Government refused to make any conclusive recommendations on the reopening of events – leading to anger and frustration among eventprofs.

With a seemingly low number of Covid-19 cases attached to the pilot events, it had looked like we would be able to draw some positivity from the findings. Instead, the sector has a raft of data on the low transmission of the virus at business events, and the Government has still not made any recommendations on how UK events businesses can start up again either regionally or internationally.

Writing on LinkedIn, conference facilitator and M&IT Expert Samme Allen expressed frustration at the lack of action, saying: “There just doesn’t seem to be a conversation happening despite the work and protestations of industry. Also, no one seems to be challenging international travel. We aren’t just an industry of local events.”

Michael Hirst, chairman of the Events Industry Board, moved to reassure her, saying: “There’s lots of conversations going on and opening up inbound international travel for business events is one of them as is being able to implement the positive findings from the Events Research Programme and get back to full capacities with the minimum of restrictions as soon as possible.”

Michael Hirst, chair of the Events Industry Board

Michael Hirst

No justification

However, Hirst’s reassurances were met with a flurry of responses from frustrated eventprofs.

Elaine Dellar, founder and CEO of event agency Dellar Davies, pointed out that many UK eventprofs need more than just inbound travel to reopen – and called for sector-specific support.

“Many of our clients’ business events take place overseas for various reasons, so a big chunk of our business will remain at a standstill for at least another six months, probably more, “ she said. “We need sector specific support until our businesses can operate freely again.

“The government is knowingly taking event companies down. There can be no justification for their strategy without providing the sector with ongoing and tailored financial support.”

Liz Johnson, MD of healthcare meeting specialists IMPACCT, said: “Europe is opening up for those that are double vaccinated and the UK is being left behind and yet again it’s the events/travel/hospitality industry that is suffering!

“Right now if feels like no one seems to recognise that we don’t all manage UK events. There is a whole heap of extremely respected UK companies and professional experts that manage and specialise in international overseas meetings.

“I can go to Switzerland and enter without restriction because I’m double jabbed, but I can’t get back to the UK without self-isolating on my return. So where does that leave UK companies and professionals who specialise in overseas international meetings pitching against European agencies? Right at the bottom of the procurement pile, that’s where.”

Malcolm Sherborne, chief executive at INTERCEM Conferences, said: “This is a restraint of legitimate trade, without good reason and a legal challenge would probably be the only way to move them.”

“Good, profitable businesses have gone to the wall, whilst government has chosen not to listen to an industry that is supposed to provide organisation as a skill, but hasn’t even been able to organise itself.”

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