New strategy for the UK events industry

The Department for Culture Media and Sport has unveiled a cross Governmental strategy for UK events, following widespread engagement with the industry.

The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) has proposed forming a Business Visits & Events board, comprising industry representation with government departments and agencies.

The board is part of a cross-governmental strategy for the UK events industry, following widespread engagement with the industry over the last few months.

It will be tasked with identifying business opportunities and winning more events for Britain. Membership of the board would include:

  • Representatives from the business visits and events industry
  • Relevant Government departments
  • VisitBritain
  • UKTI
  • VisitScotland, Visit Wales, Tourism

Northern Ireland and VisitEngland. The board will report into the Ministerial GREAT Programme Board to ensure co-ordinated, cross-Government action. Opportunities for action include:

  • Direct Government backing of individual bids
  • Letters of support from Ministers
  • Hosting, by Ministers, of delegations or bid parties
  • Use of Government buildings where possible, including heritage sites.

A priority list of business visits and events, along with appropriate actions, will be identified by the industry board. This should include events which the UK could bid for in the coming 5 -10 years and events that the UK currently hosts but is at risk of losing due to overseas competition.

This prioritisation exercise will take into consideration industries that are identified as a Government priority for growth, working closely with UKTI, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and board members and will consider what new events might be created to help secure the UK’s competitive advantage.

The Strategy also makes 20 recommendations covering UK wide and England specific proposals on governance, infrastructure and funding, visas and welcome; marketing and strategic partnerships; best practice and expertise. Proposals are also included to target support events covering three distinct tiers: Those that have a global high profile which should be held in Britain; those that require support to optimise their investment value to the UK and those that would benefit from more local support to highlight the wider economic benefits to local areas.

Michael Hirst OBE, Chairman of the Business Visits and Events Partnership, which together with several other industry organisations and business, worked with DCMS to develop the Strategy, said: “This Strategy is the product of joint industry and government work over the last 12 months.

“We welcome the recognition given to the role business and other events play in the national and local economy. “There is clearly much more potential for further growth by winning more events and nurturing those already in place”.

He added, ”The creation of a Business Visits and Events Board comprising industry representation with government departments and agencies, under the auspices of the GREAT programme, to identify business opportunities and win more Events for Britain, is a major step forward.

“This is a solid blueprint for action, whatever party is in power, post the General Election. What is essential now is that the industry endorses the support that is being expressed and works to ensure the momentum is maintained immediately post the General Election”. The DCMS report identifies a number of other key areas where further support is needed in the industry:

Infrastructure and funding

The Government has announced a £2million GREAT UK Challenge Fund. It now expects cities and regions around the UK to provide innovative bids as part of this fund which might include supporting the development of business visits and events. In order to reinvigorate investment and retain the UK’s global reputation, the UK Government will support a bid for the UK to host the World Expo in 2025 and to work with partners to identify a suitable venue and location.

Consideration could include the feasibility of investing in a new, congress style event facility or utilising existing infrastructure. The industry board will also work with with DfT to ensure future transport improvements and consider the impact on business visits and events industry.

Marketing and strategic partnerships

VisitBritain will develop a GREAT international events promotional toolkit and undertake international business events promotion at a Britain level, alongside other GREAT partners.

It will create an online UK Business Events Portal to provide information on the benefits of bringing a business event to the UK and the resources available to both potential organisers and delegates. It will also work with relevant organisers and associations to ensure GREAT branding at major business events and exhibitions.

In addition, the UKTI will consider in its plans for a revised events programme from 2016 how to:

  • Create greater co-operation with other Government Departments, agencies and the events industry to attract events to the UK. This would include working with VisitBritain to identify opportunities to bring major conventions, exhibitions, conferences and trade shows to the UK with HMG’s own priority growth sectors. The strategy report includes a positive introduction from Sajid Javid, the former secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport, which endorses the strength and quality of the UK events industry

One of the first tasks for the industry board will be to undertake a prioritisation exercise to identify: events in the UK which, with some further support could be world-class events; events that are not currently held in the UK, which could be bid for over the coming 5-10 years; and new, bespoke events for, showing UK expertise. At its core, it will aim to have a consideration of which events will support priority industries and regional growth priorities.