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Brexit reaction: events sector will "stay robust" after UK leaves EU

But next two years will be critical in maintaing relationships with Europe, warn industry fugures

Pictured: Kevin Jackson, chair of International Live Events Association (ILEA)

The UK events industry will remain strong despite Britain leaving the European Union (EU), leading industry figures have said.

Kevin Jackson, chair of the International Live Events Association (ILEA) and Rapiergroup founder Nick de Bois have told M&IT said while the next two years were crucial, the industry would continue to 'do what it does best' to continue growing.

Jackson said: "The concern for our industry is the uncertainty of the next two years because it'll take two years to extract ourselves and no-one knows how to that will go or what we need to do. But the event industry is a robust industry and a relationship-based industry and we've got strong relationships across Europe and around the world.

"I don't see long-term that we'll be knocked off course. But I think the next two years will be the issue for us. We need to keep doing what we do best. We're an events industry; there's always a deadline and always a delivery and as long as we keep delivering we'll be OK. As a creative and relationship-based industry we have to leverage those relationships to drive the industry forwards. No matter what's going on with the government and the EU."

Jackson said he couldn't see events being cancelled following the result, saying there was a "lot of scaremongering" in the lead-up to the campaign.

He added the Leave vote was a real shock. "In the two industry debates I hosted, the overwhelming mood in the room was for Remain. It was about 80 per cent Remain. But I suppose we have a skewed London view."

Nick de Bois, also a former MP who chaired the All Parliamentary Party Group (APPG) for Events, said the exit vite was a "great opportunity".

"I understand there were anxieties and concerns for what leaving the EU would mean. The problem has been that it has been very speculative. That’s inevitable. That’s why many people have been anxious, but it now presents us with a terrific opportunity," he said.

De Bois, who campaigned to leave the EU in the lead up to the referendum, stressed that his comments were his own views and not in his capacity as current chair of the Events Industry Board.

He added: "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."

Alan Newton, Eventopedia founder and COO

"In the short term there’s going to be a reaction to how the markets have reacted and the uncertainty it creates. Also with the situation in Northern Ireland, and in Scotland, with Nicola Sturgeon saying there’ll be another referendum, it just prolongs the uncertainty. 

“In the immediate term, non-essential meetings, training and incentives will most likely be cancelled or reconsidered at the very least.

“Long term, it’s too difficult to say, it’s so complex. One advantage with the fall in sterling is that we might be a more attractive destination from overseas, if they still choose to come here. We have to ask the question, how does the rest of the world view Britain?”

Anita Lowe, MD Venues & Events International

“We have not seen any change to booking patterns in the last couple of weeks. The exit from the EU needs strong negotiation from strong negotiators. Companies have time to create a longer term view if negotiation does not start until October (when Prime Minister David Cameron intends to stand down), and events business has to continue. From a small business point of view, there may be some benefits in the form of regulations and the enforcement of regulation.”

Sam Gill, CEO Concerto Group

“Having been through and survived many dips in business confidence over the past 30 years, I am confident that clients will continue to invest in events that add value to their staff morale and marketing activity.” 

Steve Garvey, chairman EVCOM

“The biggest risk now is the uncertainty, which encourages people to delay investment decisions. There is also a risk that as the live events industry, we take our eye off the ball and we lose international competitiveness. What will delivering events in Europe look like in five years’ time?

It’s important to us in the industry to make opportunities out of this. We need to communicate about the UK being a great place to do business and also about the skills and success of the kind of offering that our leading agencies have.

Rather than backing off, we need to be proactive in talking to the European markets. I want everyone in this industry to send a positive message to Europe to reassure them we have not turned our back on them.

We also need to make it clear to government that it is essential to keep free and open trade with the European Union.”

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