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Congresses cancel as European clients 'take vote personally'

Linda Peirera says UK off the pitch list as Brexit interpreted as some level of racism, while others disagree

Pictured: European conferences have pulled out of the UK, according to Portugal-based CPL Meetings and Events executive director Linda Peirera

Two conferences have pulled out of the UK with more inbound European groups threatening to follow suit in the wake of the UK's Brexit vote, a professional conference organiser (PCO) has said.

Linda Peirera, executive director of Portugal-based CPL Meetings and Events, says clients are taking the Brexit vote personally. She says two conferences - a 600-delegate meeting destined for London later this year and a 1,000-delegate event originally planned in Liverpool in February - had since taken their events elsewhere.

However fellow PCO Kenes Group says there have been no cancellations, and that its association clients were unlikely to stop using the UK.

Pereira said: "The two conferences that cancelled said 'it's not worth it'. And it's not just about the financial risk, it's about feeling insecure.

"People are feeling rejected. They're interpreting this as some level of racism … and they're taking it personally. I know it's not a reality, I know it's perception, but perception is reality in our industry. We're hearing things like 'well we can't hold a conference in England now because delegates from other countries will feel they're not welcome'."

Pereira said as a result the UK had almost dropped off the pitch list.

She said: "The UK at the moment is right at the bottom of the list. I'm not even proposing it now. I'm not putting it forward because I know they'll say at this time 'everything is very sensitive'."

However, Kenes Group CEO Dan Rivlin said the UK was still a conference destination, adding that associations in particular "wouldn't take any special steps against the UK".

"The collegial bonding is stronger than political disagreement, if any. The UK is still a member of the EU and is likely to remain such in the coming months/years. European associations select frequently non-EU member states as well, so other than the potential emotional reaction, there is no reason for any association to take an action," he said.

"Kenes Group mainly serves the association medical and scientific segments. These associations are unlikely to take a harsh step that will damage their relationships with colleagues due to a political decision of a country."

Rivlin added than due to economic uncertainty following the vote, there may be reduced number of attendees and sponsorship at conferences.

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