Political landscape and policy agenda discussed at The Business of Events: UK Policy Forum

More than 170 delegates representing the UK government and the global business events, associations and education sectors, joined The Business of Events’ UK Policy Forum, which took place yesterday (08 November 2023) at IET London: Savoy Place in Westminster.

The forum was an official event as part of the Department for Business and Trade’s International Trade Week.

The annual event is designed to educate the events industry on the current political landscape so that any policy agenda that is created can be done so with realistic objectives at its core. The content for this year’s event was specifically curated not just to align with the Department for Business and Trade’s International Trade Week but to discuss key events industry policy areas for which the UK government can benefit from.

The outcome of the event will be a summary report which will be submitted to Government and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Events and will be shared widely with the industry. This will then be discussed among The Business of Events Advisory Council and will contribute towards the development of a policy agenda for the events industry.

The event programme was packed with sessions from senior spokespeople from some of the UK’s largest event agencies, exhibition organisers, venues and government organisations. Keynote speakers included Nick Watt, Political Editor at BBC Newsnight who provided an overview of the current political landscape and a look at its future and the RT Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Events who provided an update on group’s work and advocacy efforts. She was joined by Rachel McGuickin from VisitBelfast and Ian Edwards of ICC Wales who shared their own views on the relationship with government and outlined what they were working on to help drive the industry forwards.

An interview with Senthil Gopinath, CEO of ICCA, revealed which countries around the world lead the way in business events, and what other Governments are doing to harness the potential of their event sectors.

The UK is a world leader in delivering exhibitions and trade shows not just at home but all around the world. Most of the world’s largest exhibition companies are British and on a global scale we export billions in exhibition services every year. In the UK £9.4 billion is generated by the sector annually, and it provides easy routes to market for a multitude of businesses. The session titled ‘How Trade Shows Contribute to the UK Economy’ heard Chris Gallon, CEO EMEA of Clarion, one of the world’s biggest organisers, outline the UK’s landscape, while Paul Black, Head of Business Events at Visit Britain revealed details of a new initiative to showcase strategically important trade shows to international markets for hosted delegations. Chris Skieth OBE, Chair, UKEVENTS shared the latest findings of the economic impact study which indicated that the exhibitions and trade shows sector was in a strong period of growth.

In the session entitled Exporting Creativity, major event producer Martin Green CBE was joined by Michael Gietzen, CEO of Identity and Hannah Kelly from BCD Meetings and Events. to discuss Britain’s role as a nation which is highly regarded internationally as a leading events destination and exporter. It was discussed how events are a great means of soft power which can help governments achieve their own policy objectives, but also highlighted the challenges surrounding visa rules for Britons working across the EU. Education and skills were also noted as a core fundamental for maintaining the UK’s reputation for creativity.

The final session of the day explored the merits of Ambassador Programmes and heard from Dr Helge Wurdeman, who has worked with London and partners to bring specialised robotics conference to the city for several years. He was joined by Stephanie Newton from Marketing Manchester and Laura Wilson from VisitAberdeenshire, who both explained how their ambassador programmes have benefited their destinations.

The closing address was delivered by Anita Mendiratta, Special Advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. Anita spoke passionately about collaboration but also stressed that the outcomes and legacy of the event were just as important as the day itself.

Speaking on the event, Martin Fullard, Associate Director, The Business of Events said: “The UK policy forum is an important event for the sector as we bring together senior industry leaders industry stakeholders policymakers government officials and trade associations and highlight the fantastic work of our sector, which is a hotbed for trade and innovation at a domestic level. We are grateful to all of our speakers who have contributed to this event, in particular Nick Watt of BBC Newsnight and Theresa Villiers the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for events for their incredibly valuable insights.”  

The UK Policy Forum was preceded by The Business of Events: Westminster dinner hosted at 116 Pall Mall in partnership with Searcys, which was attended by senior event industry stakeholders. The Business of Events is supported by VisitBritainVisitScotland, ICC Wales, RX, IBTM World, The Belfry, Cvent, UKEVENTSIET London: Savoy PlaceSearcys and 116 Pall Mall

Speakers at the event included Martin Green CBE, former MD, Eurovision 2023; Michael Gietzen, CEO, Identity; Senthil Gopinath, CEO, ICCA; Laura Wilson, Head of Convention Bureau, VisitAberdeenshire; Stephanie Newton, Head of Business Tourism, Marketing Manchester; Rachael McGuickin, Director of Business Development, Sustainability and Transformation at Visit Belfast; Dr Helge A Wurdemann, Professor and Chair of Robotics and Head of the Soft Haptics & Robotics Lab at University College London; Paul Black, Head of Business Events, VisitBritain; Chris Skeith OBE, Chair, UKEVENTS;  Chris Gallon, CEO EMEA, Clarion and Ian Edwards, CEO, ICC Wales and The Celtic Collection.

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