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​Brexit – A seismic event for the UK events industry?

November 02, 2018


By Paul Stoddart
Managing Director UK, Ireland and Benelux, CWT Meetings and Events

In the fourth blog in our Brexit Impact series, we are looking at how the divorce bill could impact the meetings and events industry.

Two weeks ago, more than 700,000 people protested on the streets of London, demanding a people’s vote on the final deal. This week, The Guardian newspaper reported that EU diplomats agreed to hold a series of no-deal planning seminars this month covering aviation, ground transport, customs, and border controls – all areas of concern for the events industry. I have to admit that a part of me wishes that we were organizing all the meetings and conferences created by Brexit but we are not so what I need to look at is how this will play out for the hundreds of events organized by us and other agencies every day.

We have 2 basic scenarios in the words of the TV phenomenon – Deal, or No Deal – but only one view. We predict that regardless of the outcome, the Global Meetings and Events industry will grow next year by up to 10%. We also believe that in the UK – where the industry is estimated to be worth around £40bn and account for over a third of the UK visitor economy that London will remain the top destination.

Several industry studies are showing a balanced to optimistic outlook. Impact on recruitment in the events industry is increasing but its influence on business in the events sector generally has reduced in the last 12 months, according to a Brexit survey released in June 2018 by hospitality trade association HBAA. Sterling’s depreciation has boosted overall visitor numbers to the UK and could continue to approve attractive to global planners.

Apart from generating a meetings and hospitality industry in itself, the key consensus is around the seamlessness with which delegates can travel to and from the UK. This, along with the change in the status of EU nationals who make up a large proportion of staff in the UK events industry, will have the biggest impact.

My colleagues and I continue to monitor the situation (along with several million other people, I know), but for now, the only certainty is that there's uncertainty.

Early next year we will produce tips and guidelines for meetings & events planners, but for now, I advise people not to hold off on their planning. Don't try and second guess developments and remember that events will continue to serve a crucial purpose - to provide a platform for the exchange of creative ideas and an opportunity to meet face-to-face. No other forum is more effective and more critical in a fast-changing world.