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"Our industry’s lack of support shames us", says event board chair

Nick De Bois tells delegates at International Confex that other governments put the UK to shame

Pictured: Nick de Bois

Nick de Bois, chair of the newly-formed UK Event Industry Board, said that the UK is shamed by the activities of rival countries when bidding for large-scale events.

De Bois was speaking at the opening session of International Confex at London’s Olympia and outlined the work of the board, which has been formed to advise government on new strategies to improve Britain’s standing on the world stage.

The board is made up of a mix of leading government and industry bodies responsible for influencing and attracting international events to the UK and growing existing event activity, as well as individuals with experience of international competitiveness in the sector. The board will play a vital role in implementing the recommendations laid out in last year’s Business Visits and Events Strategy.

And board chair De Bois said its work would be crucial. “What Britain needs to be doing is winning more major international shows and events,” he said. "We must break down the barriers of visa problems and infrastructure and win more of the type of events that bring thousands of decision-makers to the UK. We are put to shame by the techniques of other governments who go out of their way to help win business.

“There was a major event that has been won by London, but the organiser of the event told me that when the bidding went to Asia and Australia, the client was invited to the embassy in the region where the ambassador personally delivered the bid to whet the appetite of the client, telling them this is the kind of personalised experience the delegate will get. The prime minister for the region then supported the bid by an appearance via video conference.

“We struggle to get a letter from government to support our big bids.”

De Bois, who also rejected criticism that the make-up of the board is venue and supplier-focused, said the board’s aim is to develop the UK events industry’s credibility.

“I do not know how many companies are offering apprenticeships, but I don’t think it’s enough. If you want help from the government it’s a good idea to move with their agenda (to develop three million apprenticeships by 2020).

“I put a challenge out to the sector: if you are worried about the skills gap then get together with the colleges and universities, help them design the courses to generate the skills we need.”

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