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Hands Off Our QEII, event professionals plead

Campaign launched to persuade UK Government to look at alternative options during Westminster refurbishment

Pictured: A report has shortlisted the QEII building as a venue to be used by the House of Lords while repair work is carried out at the Palace of Westminster

London would lose its last dedicated conference centre in the city if the government decides to temporarily move into the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre II (QEII), worried event professionals say.

Industry leaders argue the capital would lose credibility for attracting major conferences and miss out on millions of pounds worth of economic value if the UK Government took over the venue while repair work is carried out at Westminster.

It comes after a report recommended the House of Lords take up residence either at the QEII centre or a venue at Victoria Gardens, while repair work is done between 2022-2028. Leading the opposition is QEII board member Simon Hughes, with supporters including former Mayor Boris Johnson and the APPG for Events, who says speculation at the prospect of using the venue is deterring conference organisers and damaging long term bookings.

They have called for the government to rule out using the venue, in a joint campaign with Meetings & Incentive Travel (M&IT), Hands off Our QEII. Hughes said: “We know from the numbers that the QEII adds about £122 million in economic benefits every year. We employ hundreds of Londoners in both permanent and freelance staff.

“The other issue is, compared to other destinations London is not awash with big conference centres. At the moment, Earls Court is gone and if we took QEII out of the game, central London would have little or no purpose-built venue for central events, meetings or conferences. It would leave all our bids focussed on ExCeL, which is superb, but a lot of business that comes to centre of town, comes to the centre for specific reason. They want to be in the heart of London.”

The UK Government carried out an enquiry to decide which building to move into, and recommendations were handed down this week.

Hughes said no representatives from the QEII were invited to give oral evidence at the enquiry in December and January, which explored the options on where to house the government while restoration work is carried out.

Hughes said that the longer that people are allowed to speculate about the possibility of losing the QEII, the more harm it would do. “So far a number of people who've contacted the centre have asked the question. They say 'we've seen the reports, what does it mean'. We tell them at the moment it's business as usual and once a decision has been made we'll inform them,” he said.

“But what we don't know is the impact it’s having on people’s decision making. There's an unknown there. They may have seen the speculation and decided not to put the QEII on the shortlist which means we’re missing out on that. “Of course there are long lead times involved for event planners and you really don't want to put an option in that you’re not absolutely certain is available in two or three years hence.”

Register your support for the Hands off Our QEII campaign by signing our petition here.

  • Sarah Storie-Pugh of IAPCO 08/10/2016

    Business Tourism is an essential part of a city’s economy; infrastructure is a required ingredient to meet the business tourism needs. If a prominent part of that infrastructure is removed from the equation, the whole fabric of that economic contribution becomes unravelled and ultimately possibly lost. IAPCO is the leading association for professional congress organisers and as such upholds quality standards throughout the industry and recognises professional congress centres as part of the crucial mix. IAPCO therefore expresses their grave concerns at the potential loss of the QEII to the business tourism industry for London. In the opinion of IAPCO, a professional and dedicated congress centre in the centre of London is paramount to the city’s position in the international meetings market and therefore urge that the QEII is retained as a congress centre.

  • Hugo Ponsonby Smythe of PS Taker Ltd 14/09/2016

    The building is owned by HM Govt. As part of the 1975 feasibility study the centre, to get funding to be built, was always tabled as the seat of govt if anything happened to the Houses of Parliament. That time has come. Before 1986 for the previous 50 or so years the lucky stand in had been an agreement with the Bracewell Smith family the previous owners of the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel. I imagine today's MP's would much prefer the beautiful Art Deco ballroom of the Park Lane to the concrete brutality of the QEII.

  • Steve Nickels of IDS London 13/09/2016

    I wholeheartedly endorse and agree with Martin Sirk's comments above - to close this major events venue in the heart of London would be incredibly short-sighted of the Government, but worryingly they have a well documented track record of short-sighted decision making. We have staged many events with the QEIICC over the years - it is a superb facility and would be a great loss to the events industry.

  • kirk thomas of Athena Events Group 12/09/2016

    What credible alternative is being put forward, by the APPG/BVEP/QE2/Events industry board/London & Partners...etc?

  • Martin Sirk of ICCA 09/09/2016

    As CEO of ICCA, which represents over 1,000 leading venues, destination marketing organisations, PCOs, airlines and other suppliers in more than 90 countries worldwide, it's very sad to observe the lack of understanding amongst politicians and senior government officials about the powerful, positive impact of international meetings on a country's economy, and the critical role that QEIICC has played since it opened in putting London on the world map in this super-competitive business. International meetings don't only generate direct tourism impacts by delegates in London's hotels, reataurants and shops, along with the technical and support services purchased by organisers, they have a profound "beyond tourism" impact on inward investment, promotion of London's knowledge industries, education for postgrads and profile for the country's acadmic and scientific leaders, positive improvements to healthcare, and even contributions towards world peace and finding solutions for climate change. International meetings have very long lead times, and hate uncertainty; hopefully the proposal to change the use of the QEIICC will quickly be withdrawn, since the damage is already likely to be happening, in lost bids for 2020 and beyond.

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