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Conference centres remain on high level of alert

Measures introduced after Paris terror attacks remain in place in the wake of Brussels bombings, say ExCeL and NEC

Pictured: ExCeL, where security remains at the same level reached in the wake of Paris terror attacks in Novemnber

Security at some of the UK’s most high-profile conference centres remains at the high level reached in the wake of November’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

Although venues such as London’s ExCeL and the NEC Group in Birmingham have not specifically stepped-up security in response to this week’s bombings in Brussels, which left at least 30 people dead, they have retained the arrangements entered into after the Paris attacks.

At ExCeL, for example, that includes sniffer dogs. Executive director James Rees said security was being constantly reviewed through discussions with the ‘appropriate authorities’. He added: “We increased our coverage in the wake of Paris and we have remained at that level since and we are going to stay at that level.

“We have sniffer dog patrols on all external entrance points to the venue, and our advice is that it is the best way of providing the best protection.”

The NEC Group, which operates venues such as the International Convention Centre and National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, has retained its post-Paris security, saying that additional security staff and patrols are in place, along with random bag searches. A spokesman said: “The national threat level remains at severe and advice from the government is to ‘be alert, not alarmed’. Public safety at our events is our priority and our teams will continue to remain vigilant.”

In Scotland, the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) said it was in regular contact with Police Scotland to keep security procedures updated, and the Arena and Convention Centre (ACC) Liverpool said it has ‘a team of dedicated security and stewarding staff who are highly trained and experienced working across all our venues’.

Meanwhile, the IMEX Group, organisers of the IMEX Frankfurt trade show between 19-21 April said it was in constant contact with local authorities regarding security arrangements.

CEO Carina Bauer added: “We take security very seriously and the safety of our exhibitors, buyers, visitors and staff is of the highest importance to us.

“We continually seek advice on the level of security at our events from our host venues and immediately put in place all their recommendations.”

Ovation Belgium, part of the global destination management company, has offices in Brussels, and immediately reported a series of cancellations from clients. The company said it did not have any groups on the ground in the city at the time of this week’s attack.

Director of strategic partnerships Hugo Slimbrouck added the health of the meetings industry is especially vulnerable in the wake of the Brussels bombings and last year’s attacks in Paris. “We are getting very positive messages from around the world, there is a lot of unity,” he said. “You cannot protect the entrance to a major European airport, how in the world do you control that. At times like this you must expect that it is going to happen one day, and try to be as prepared as possible for it.

“We have had cancellations (on Tuesday). My worry is that it (the threat of terrorism) will affect the whole industry in Europe – I know the North American market is very concerned.”

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