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20th December 2016

The Events Industry Post-Brexit: What to Expect

Britain has seen changes and experienced uncertainty since the vote in June and the events industry is no different. Many events industry professionals have expressed concern about leaving the EU, both due to the possibility of fewer bookings and fewer skilled professionals being available for British roles.

Months later, unfortunately, many of the questions about Brexit and the impact of the vote are left unanswered. Ultimately, no industry will have answers to key questions until Article 50 is invoked and agreements are made regarding access to the single market and immigration (and the balance struck between the two). In the meantime, here are some of the possible implications of Brexit for the events industry.

A Weak Pound Presents Opportunities

The value of the pound has dropped significantly, both in the immediate aftermath of Brexit and in the months since. This could be of benefit to British events venues and professionals; a weaker pound makes the UK a more attractive and economical destination for professional conferences, seminars, and concerts, at least in the short run. It could also mean that more UK companies keep their events in the UK and London (since running events abroad will be more expensive when buying in pounds) and it could attract more events from both Europe and the US since the comparative costs will be quite low.

Uncertainty in the economy could mean that discretionary spend is frozen – the CLIA is just one of many associations that cancelled its annual conference post-Brexit vote. While the UK may be attractive due to the weak pound, if companies avoid spending altogether it will still have a detrimental impact on profits for events venues, planners, and service providers.

Nick de Bois, Chair of the Events Industry Board, explains that “The British events sector is hugely respected for its creativity and strength. Britain is open to doing business with the rest of the world. We can go far and drive relationships and do more around the world. It is an opportunity for the sector to do very well in markets we haven’t been as active in. I’m hugely optimistic for the sector.”

“More Partners” or “More Competition”?

Optimists and pessimists are as divided as ever when it comes to discussing the potential pitfalls and opportunities of leaving the single market. Many believe that leaving the EU may make it more difficult to compete for European events business, especially if some European headquarters leave London in favour of Brussels or Berlin. This means that the UK could lose the annual conference bookings, related tourism boost, and the ongoing tax revenue associated with the business being headquartered in the UK.

Alternatively, Britain could retain these relationships while building others within the Indian, Chinese, and South American markets. These are major growth areas that present ample opportunities to the UK.

Gordon Innes, CEO of London & Partners, states that “It is entirely possible… that new trading relationships can be forged with economies that will be the powerhouses of world trade 20, 30, 40 years from now – which will open up new opportunities.”

There is one thing that industry leaders agree on – it is important to work to retain existing business while making the most of new relationships that may emerge as a result of Brexit. The coming years will present difficulties and unexpected opportunities, and the British events sector needs to be ready to deal with both. 

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