The return of events in the UK may seem a long way from the horizon as we remain in lockdown and public health remains our priority, but the industry continues to look ahead and plan for the key role it will play in the recovery of the economy following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Events and the Business Visits & Events Partnership have submitted a series of recommendations to the Covid Recovery Commission, set up to present bold and practical ideas to Government over the coming months to support higher productivity levels, encourage business investment and promote a culture of innovation across the UK.
The recommendations follow the UK Government announcement last month that the 2021 G7 Summit will be held in Cornwall in June – the first face-to-face meeting of major world powers since the Coronavirus pandemic began.
The G7 Summit is expected to bring £50m into the Cornish economy and we know from our own experience hosting the NATO Wales Summit at Celtic Manor in 2014 just what an important and positive role major international events can play in boosting local economies and raising the profile of a destination.
The G7 Summit and its satellite events will provide a strong indication that international conferences and business events can return in safety, and that the UK has the industry expertise to facilitate this.
The events industry as a whole is worth £70 billion per annum to the UK economy in terms of visitor spend, a figure that represents more than 50% of all tourism spend. In addition, another £165 billion worth of trade is transacted at business events.
These returns illustrate just how important and wide-reaching this sector is and, when we emerge from the Covid emergency, events will have a key role to play to promote the training, opportunity, levelling up and prosperity required for recovery.
Business events showcase our industrial, scientific, academic and innovative skills to international markets, driving trade, exports and inward investment, while cultural events project our creative energy and educate and entertain our communities.
It is not only venues and hospitality providers that reap the benefits of staging events. The industry has a wide and varied supply chain including many independent freelancers and the colossal impact of the pandemic has served to raise awareness of the sector’s broad reach.
The £55 billion hole in the UK economy left by the almost complete closure of the events industry over the past 10 months has won the sector a heightened appreciation from government and the wider business community for its value and the broader economic, social and cultural benefits.
The crisis has also seen the industry work together like never before to achieve this recognition and prepare the Covid-secure protocols that will play such a key part in our reopening strategy.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Events and the Business Visits & Events Partnership behind the latest recommendations have both played a key role in this enhanced profile. It is great to see our own Newport East MP, Jessica Morden, being part of the APPG for Events and giving the industry in Wales a voice in Parliament, having been such a strong supporter for the creation of International Convention Centre Wales in her constituency.
While ICC Wales has now sadly been closed far longer than it was ever open following its brilliant launch in September 2019, we have been busy playing our part in these plans and working with industry bodies and Welsh Government to prepare for recovery and shape best practice for the resumption of events.
Our Commercial Director Jill Manley chairs the Event Wales Industry Advisory Group that has worked together as stakeholders and with Welsh Government to support the sector through this crisis and prepare for the new ways in which we will have to operate when we return to business.
Throughout this period, we have not stopped working with clients to reschedule events for future dates, while taking fresh enquiries for exciting new opportunities so we know there will an appetite for staging big events once more, when we are able to do so.
Tied in with the general economic recovery, there will be increased demand for events that deliver experience, well-being, education and training. Experiential events will go beyond traditional event venues and drive visitor traffic to retail, high street and other environments.
It may remain some way off but I hope the G7 Summit can provide a turning point towards the return of events throughout the UK. The events industry has a unique role to play in revitalising not just the visitor economy, but the economy generally as it reaches so many other sectors in its extensive supply chain and far-reaching benefits.
A full recovery will take time and will remain dependent on the public health developments, but it is vital that we all work together and that we take action now in order to ensure that recovery hits the ground running and is robust to the challenges ahead.