The Business Visits & Events Partnership (BVEP) will meet with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) next month, following fears that the UK could ‘miss the opportunity’ to recognise business events as a major part of the Olympic Games legacy.
Michael Hirst, OBE, chair of both BVEP and the Tourism Alliance, welcomed Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt’s acknowledgement that the Olympic Games has been the UK’s most successful event and a demonstration of the country’s brilliance at staging events. However, he urged a stronger focus on business events in legacy discussions.
Hunt, in a speech last week, announced £8m of marketing funds to target Chinese visitors and £2m to boost domestic tourism. New targets were set for overseas visitors to rise from 30 million today to 40 million by 2020, the Chinese segment of this number trebling to 500,000 by 2015. Hunt also promised more work would be done to ease the visa process and increase aviation capacity for Chinese visitors, often cited as impediments to inbound Chinese business.
Hirst said: “The business events community will welcome this additional support to bring more visitors to Britain. However it is not clear how much of the funding will be allocated specifically to promoting business visits and events.
"The ‘GREAT Britain’ [campaign developed by the Department of Culture, Media & Sport] focuses primarily on Britain’s trade potential, and events are included. However, the extra marketing funds going to VisitBritain are unlikely to be allocated to promote business visits as VisitBritain regrettably no longer has a remit for this lucrative tourism sector.”
Hirst is now pushing for more interaction between the events industry and UKTI to ensure that “the potential of business events to grow the economy, especially in key priority sectors, was fully realised”. Through Lord Green, Minister of State for Trade & Industry at the Department of Business, BVEP has arranged a meeting with Nick Baird, chief executive of UKTI, next month as the first step in the process.
“Ministers with tourism and business interests need to underline the role this sector has played and will continue to play in showing off Britain as a successful destination to hold international meetings, conferences and trade fairs and prestigious cultural events and festivals,” Hirst added.
Pictured: Michael Hirst