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Airport queues and closing markets named as Brexit worst case scenarios

But events industry leaders, speaking at ibtm world´s knowledge hub, optimistic for future and predict strong 2017

Pictured: MP James Heappey, Ben Goedegebuure and Ian Cummings address the audience at the ibtm knowledge session

Huge queues at Heathrow's passport control, closing markets and extra difficulty for visitors entering the UK have been listed as Brexit's worst case scenarios for event organisers.

A panel of leading industry representatives listed the undesirable scenarios in a discussion at ibtm world, but maintained the events industry would continue to flourish.

The three panellists, All Party Parliamentary Group for Events chair MP James Heappey, CWT Meetings & Events vice president EMEA Ian Cummings and Ben Goedegebuure, global general manager for Maritz Global Events, forecasted a strong 2017 for the industry.

Asked what the worst thing that could happen when the UK leaves the EU, Cummings said: "Massive queues at passport control at Heathrow, but I don't think the government would let that happen. They'd have to negotiate easy access to the UK."

Goedegebuure said the closing of markets and restriction of free trade would be a worst case scenario while Heappey cited tighter travel restrictions, which he pointed out would place events elsewhere.

 "If the UK makes a mess of a Brexit deal and makes it really hard for visitors to come to the country, it will just displace events. Events will still happen, it will just be in Barcelona or Amsterdam."

The fall in the value of the pound has had a positive effect on incoming business, Cummings pointed out.

"I think it's about 20 per cent cheaper to come to the UK now so we still remain a competitive destination and may do for quite some time, because the pound was probably over-valued in the first place," he said.

Asked where the UK industry would be in five to 10 years time, Cummings said he doubted the industry would suffer. He pointed out that unemployment was still below 5 per cent and said Theresa May was in a strong position, saying it "hasn't been as bad as what we expected on that morning we woke up in June".

He added: "There are obvious growth opportunities in Asia, in China and India, and we may see a shift towards that economy. At the moment we're not seeing it yet, but we may do in the future."

Heappey said Brexit had been overshadowed by bigger political items.

"I think the biggest decision in politics wasn't the referendum, it was the final decision on what to do with increasing airport capacity. I think one of the biggest steps for the hospitality and visitor economy in general was the decision on the expansion of Heathrow so we can compete with the likes of Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris," he said.

"The point I've made is that yes there is an uncertainty as a result of Brexit, we're waiting and seeing; but if the UK can sort out other things that have put people off coming to the UK previously, such as airport capacity, hotel capacity or the number of people speaking languages other than English... if we put that right, then that mitigates any effect of Brexit."

Goedegebuure said the Brexit negotiations would affect the entire industry, and said there are "bigger things" than Brexit happening in Europe.

"The elections in France and in Holland and in Germany; these are all big background things that will affect us all," he said.

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