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New PM Theresa May could "steady the industry", says mia

Appointment of new prime minister could help an events industry unsettled by decision to leave EU, according to mia

Pictured: mia chief executive Jane Longhurst

The meetings industry is unsettled and feeling the impact of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, according to a member survey by the Meetings Industry Association (mia). 

But the mia chief executive Jane Longhurst says that Theresa May’s appointment as prime minister could have a steadying effect and see markets improve.

The mia survey revealed that in the 19 days since the result was announced, 92 per cent of respondents saw levels of enquiries either stand still or decline, with only 8 per cent witnessing an increase.

More than half (54 per cent) say they are now looking at ways to diversify and are looking at other areas of their businesses to optimise revenue and profit where possible, while half of respondents have frozen non-essential spend. 

Jane Longhurst said: “We know from our own EU debate in May that the majority of the sector were voting to remain in the European Union so were shocked by the eventual outcome. 

“Talking to our members there is currently a real sense of low confidence – particularly because no contingency plans were put in place for a leave result. Hopefully now Theresa May’s appointment will have a steadying effect and the markets will improve. 

“However, as an industry I think in the short-term we will continue to experience a period of uncertainty with businesses being nervous.”

The survey also revealed that more than two-thirds of respondents (68 per cent) feel there will be a slowdown in capital investment by corporates and overseas investors and have starting implementing a range of diversification and cost-savings strategies to soften the impact. 

One in five (20 per cent) have ceased both project capital expenditure and stopped recruitment as part of their cost-saving measures. 

Meanwhile, over half of respondents (55 per cent) believe the current economic uncertainty will have an impact on the sector’s cost margins and feel high pressure will now be placed on cancellation terms until agreements are in place with the EU and the market regains confidence. In the interim, nearly one in two respondents (47 per cent) believe the sector will witness a drop in EU-based delegates. 

However, in a sector that is heavily reliant on European hospitality staff, only 20 per cent believe Brexit will have an effect on their future recruitment strategies with only 23 per cent believing the result will cause a reduction in the number of non-UK front of house staff being employed. 

Longhurst added: “The exit is expected to take two years plus and we are in real danger of talking ourselves into another recession. Instead we need to be championing greater incentives for international corporations to hold meetings and conferences in the UK and wider initiatives to ensure freedom of movement and trade within the European Union remains.”

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