Meetings Industry Association calls for urgent meeting with Government

By Lesley Whyte

Meetings Industry Association calls for urgent meeting with Government

The Meetings Industry Association has written an open letter to UK government warning of the catastrophic consequences of not reopening business meetings and events, which contributes £70bn to the economy and employs 700,000 skilled workers.

Chief executive Jane Longhurst warns of mass redundancies and highlights the crucial role the sector plays underpinning the economies of many UK towns and cities.

She reminds Government of the extensive measures that can be put in place, which have been highlighted in their published Visitor Economy Guidance, and has called for an urgent meeting.

The mia represents over 800 organisational members including residential and non-residential conference centres, hotels with events space, large national exhibition spaces, independents as well as corporate groups featuring a number of properties. Together it is estimated that mia members employ in the region of 280,000.

An Open Letter to:
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden
Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage Nigel Huddleston 

As a country we have come a long way in the fight against COVID-19 and as a Government you have done a brilliant job of gently reopening sectors that will help the nation get back to business.

The most recent opening of the hospitality sector and visitor attractions closely followed by gymnasiums, cinemas and beauty salons are clearly welcome as another step towards recovery.

But you have missed one fundamental element of the whole reopening process. To ensure a thriving economy in cities throughout the UK, you need to reopen the business meetings and events industry, which delivers £70billion to the economy and employs over 700,000 highly skilled individuals.

In failing to do this, city hotels will not fill bedrooms, restaurants will have empty tables and the resulting redundancies will be catastrophic for cities like Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester – all of which heavily rely on business events to underpin their local economy and jobs.

The redundancies will be far reaching and far beyond the 30,000 predicted by the business meetings and events sector. You will see many thousands more when hotels, nail bars, gymnasiums, public houses and restaurants start to fail because the crucial local economic contribution of business meetings and events are no longer propping up their businesses. The once desolate high unemployed city centres that now heavily rely on business events, will start to become boarded up again.

You are re-building the economy without consideration to its resilience. Instead, your first step should have been to deliver the economic catalyst that is needed to ensure restaurants and hotels have customers.

As a sector we are ready. We have demonstrated through our roadmap to reopening, which you have signposted in your Visitor Economy Guidance, that we can open and operate safely. Safety always has, and always will be, at the forefront of everything we do. Across the UK, wherever organised and planned events take place, robust health and safety standards and risk assessments are always in place – it’s what we do every working day.

We can open in a phased way. The first phase, conference and meetings venues, have been busy implementing the Government’s Guidance and have a specially prepared App enabling us to track and trace all delegates. We can even link this to NHS Test and Trace if that will help provide added assurance.

There are so many lessons that government can learn from initially reinstating business meetings that can then provide insight and learnings for other larger live activities such as major sporting, leisure or cultural events.

Operators and the supply chain are already making difficult long-term decisions on their future business models and workforce. To enable us to safeguard jobs and help re-build the economy, we just need a reopening date.

We cordially request an urgent meeting to discuss how we can support the reopening plans with a phased approach that will ensure the safety of all.

Jane Longhurst

Chief Executive of the mia