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Events are GREAT campaign to drive government support

The campaign will access a pot of around £60 million devoted to the government’s GREAT Britain initiative

Pictured: From left, Chris Skeith, Michael Hirst and Chris Foy launch the Events are GREAT Britain campaign

The newly-launched Events are GREAT Britain campaign will guarantee top-level support from government, key figures say.

Unveiled at Stamford Bridge stadium in front of some of the UK’s leading industry names, the campaign will access a pot of around £60 million devoted to the government’s GREAT Britain initiative, supporting several sectors, from food and culture, to exporting and education.

And now VisitBritain has resumed responsibility for the promotion of business events as it takes a lead role in ensuring the events industry benefits from the campaign, which takes the place of Business Visits & Events Partnership’s (BVEP) Britain for Events campaign. 

Departing VisitBritain/VisitEngland director of marketing Joss Croft said the industry, which is valued as worth £42bn to the UK economy, would benefit from access to ‘all the assets and relationships from across the GREAT banner’.

VisitBritain’s newly-installed head of business events Chris Foy reported directly to the central GREAT Britain campaign in Downing Street in his previous roles at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

He said: “We have seen first-hand what impact this campaign has had on investment and trade and we are excited to bring events into this family.

“This is not just a banner to wave, it brings practical support, and it also brings budget and commitment at a senior level of government to get behind bids.

“The campaign is the result of a clear understanding that the sector is worth a lot more than just a contribution to the economy; it is a platform for trade and investment. VB's role is about building demand for visitors, supporting winning events and addressing some of the areas of the welcome to the UK. This is a very tangible sector and I am very excited.”

Michael Hirst, who sits on the newly-formed Event Industry Board (EIB), which will inform government, said the campaign was more than harnessing ‘soft power’. He said it would compel senior ministers to support the industry UK destinations which venues have said it has been difficult to even raise a ministerial letter of support for a bid. Hirst added that the message is: “This is not a polite request; you will get involved in events.”

He added that the EIB would meet in June to identify major events to receive support, and report back to government.

“We are delighted that British tourism activity is leading on this around the GREAT programme,” Hirst said. “That events are in this programme is solid evidence of the government’s understanding that business events are at the forefront of its strategy – from sharing knowledge, creativity and driving the visitor economy.”

BVEP will continue to lobby to raise awareness, and will have campaign input. Vice-chair Chris Skeith said: “This industry is incredibly diverse and dynamic and that’s why BVEP is very important in bringing this together. It’s a big sector, but very segmented. I do believe we have improved the awareness of the sector at government level.”

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