Reactions from events industry following Britain’s vote to leave EU

As the UK has voted to leave the European Union with a 52 per cent majority result, EN has spoken to members of the exhibition and events industry, to gauge their initial reactions on the future of the UK and their businesses.

 

From organisers to venues, suppliers and our associations, EN will be updating this post throughout the day as more reactions come in.

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David Pegler, CEO, ExCeL London said: “ExCeL London is pleased that the uncertainty and unpredictability of the referendum campaign is now over. Although we do not yet know the full details of what Brexit will mean in terms of trade, access to the single market or free-flowing business travel, we are confident of a bright future for the London economy and for ExCeL.

 

“London always has and always will be a great place to live, work and do business. Even outside of the EU, London’s advantages as a world city - its time zone, access to cutting edge technology and innovation, a competitive business environment, transport connectivity, its economic dynamism, its strength in financial services, the availability of a highly skilled workforce, and its innate entrepreneurial spirit – will ensure that the capital will not just survive but thrive in the global economy. ExCeL London looks forward to playing its part in London’s post-EU success story, to continue hosting world-leading events, and to reaping the benefits of a Brexit boost.”

 

Nick Moss, CEO of Prysm Group kept it short and simple, and said: “Very disappointing but we are postponing shock and searching for opportunity.”

 

Former MP and chair of the government events board Nick de Bois said: “This momentous decision by the British people sets the course for the UK to excel in global markets, free of the heavy bureaucratic and undemocratic institutions of the EU. There will of course be a period of adjustment but the bottom line is that the future is in our own hands to determine and that presents the UK with a massive opportunity.

 

“Our events sector is the best in the world and held in very high regard across the globe for its creativity, logistical professionalism and delivering some of the best domestic and international events. It’s time to put the debate behind us and seize this opportunity to grow our industry sector not just in Europe but the rest of the world.”

 

Paul Thandi, CEO of the NEC Group said: “As a business we’ve been vocal about our support for the Remain campaign, and while I still believe that would have been the best possible outcome for us, we are now faced with a new challenge which we must embrace. Although this will be an unsettled time for Government, the focus will undoubtedly be on the diplomatic process of negotiating new, advantageous, trade agreements for the UK.

 

We face our own, industry-specific challenges too. We’re not part of the Schengen Agreement, irrespective of the EU referendum result, which puts us at a disadvantage when trying to attract international events to the UK. This is arguably an even greater challenge now, but we’ve got a fantastic offer to sell and it remains business as usual as we continue with the great work we’re doing to make our business the best it can be and to thrive within this country, the EU and globally.”

 

On a more personal note, Rob Nathan, group marketing director at organiser Media 10 said: “I’m devastated, angry, annoyed and feel slightly cheated. This is a decision brought on by Cameron’s insecurities prior to the general Election, to appease the right and to hope it worked in the same way did for appeasing the SNP (with a devolution referendum) and the Lib Dems (with a first past the post referendum). It backfired. He didn’t bank on a vitriolic opposition from Gove and Johnson who are politically – and above all – selfishly motivated and he had the right wing press preying on Little-Englanders. We are now in a perilous position; weak opposition, firebrand heirs to the throne and a global humanitarian crisis with displacement of people needing refuge. It’s a sad day, it’s arguably the most significant day since the end of the second world war and I just hope that people voted knowing the full facts."

 

Andrew Harrison, ESSA director commented: “While the referendum result might be a bitter pill to swallow for many people across the industry and the country at large, I feel strongly that we must accept this resolution to leave the EU quickly and decisively. Of course, as the process of disengaging from the EU begins in earnest, there will be a direct impact on the industry in many ways, but it is important to remember that there will be no immediate change in the way the UK event industry operates.

 

"Eight years ago we were caught in a severe economic crisis that was characterised and, in my view, greatly exacerbated by a spiralling descent into negativity and self-doubt. We must not let the same thing happen again. This entire debate has been vociferous and highly charged from the outset, but with the issue now decided, it is time to box up any negative feelings, focus on the positives, roll up our sleeves and work on actively sustaining the confidence that is so vital to the success of our 39 billion pound industry."

 

Tracy Halliwell, London & Partners director of Business Tourism and Major Events, said: “London remains one of the best cities in which to build a global business and to hold an international event. We are also one of the most connected cities on the planet offering a great breadth of unique event spaces and hotel accommodation.

 

“Until the facts become clearer, we believe there is no immediate cause for concern and there will be ample time to develop and effect plans to ensure continuity of business over the coming years.

 

“In short this vote does not alter London’s position as one of the world’s most welcoming and truly global cities. London offers a world class centre for international business and events during and after any exit from the EU and we are committed to the continued growth of our city.”

In a statement released by the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), the management team said: “The company anticipates conducting its business in exactly the same way as before. The markets in which we operate mean that our clients and visitors come from across Scotland, the rest of the UK and internationally and this is unlikely to alter. Further planned investment in our facilities will make sure that our business is well placed for the future. We will build on our strong relationships with strategic partners at a local and national level to ensure that the SECC continues to be a strong economic driver for Glasgow and Scotland.”

 

Jim Curry, founder of Exhibitor Smarts said: “Immediately, a quick look at the share prices of the big exhibition players on the market will tell you we are tracking the FTSE index – some better, some worse and that’s to be expected. The process of withdrawing from the EU will take two years which in some ways is similar to the natural cycle of exhibitions. We’ll face a lag in response and a lot of decisions will be made in 24 months that will soften the initial shock the UK market is currently experiencing.”

 

Matt Miller, MD of Mercury Events said there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge: “The EU referendum could be viewed as a Conservative leadership battle which Cameron just lost. Johnson will now need to build a great many bridges in the UK and Europe to have a successful time as PM.

 

“Personally I’m not too concerned about the economic impact on the UK at a macro and mid to long term level, but clearly there will be individual losers and winners in the weeks and months ahead; would have been the case either way.

“One positive to take from the result is that a great many people who felt removed or left behind by the political process in the UK ought to now feel a better sense of their voice being heard. Likewise my own view is the Remain camp is better placed to respond constructively to the result.

 

“I’m a bit surprised and certainly disappointed when society so obviously divides, but I’m reserving judgement; whatever the result was last night, the struggle against inequality in the UK, Europe and across the world remains a huge challenge.

Michael Hirst, BVEP said: “Obviously these results don’t reflect the views that the partners put in the survey we carried out, where 90 per cent felt that there wouldn’t be any benefit to the number of events attracted to the UK, and 60 per cent predicted less industry investment.

“However, what’s important is that the industry hopes that the process will move fairly quickly. While nothing is likely to happen until we have a new leader of the Conservative party and a new prime minister, we do need a level of certainty. So many large-scale events are booked today for holding two to four years ahead. So event organisers will be concerned about what are they offering for those events when they have to bid and quote now not knowing what the situation is going to be.

“There were some positive points from our survey that could bear out. The weakening of the pound makes Britain more competitive, and we have a greater flexibility to win more global events, especially now that we have a new industry board in place and much more willingness on the part of the government to support events.

“We also need to absolutely ensure that Britain is kept centre stage and really go overboard in expressing the natural advantage of the UK as a destination of choice. We have ease of access, common language for most countries, lots of good attractions up and down country, which visitors to events can enjoy and we are a hub of knowledge for scientific research and industrial strength – all of which are benefits that must be promoted as why events in Britain can deliver higher return than elsewhere.

“I wasn’t pleased that Cameron resigned but I noted during his speech that he specifically referenced science, arts and engineering, specific sectors where events stand very tall. Our international conventions in science and medicine are among the best in the world; engineering gives rise to a lot of trade fairs in the UK; and arts and culture, given that its Glastonbury week and music festivals this year have shown a billion pounds increase in visitor spend on the last survey by UK Music, ‘Wish You Were Here’, one has to think of cultural events not only as a form of fun and leisure, but also business activity as well.

“We’ve got to be positive and continue to promote strongly why events are so important to Britain’s future now more than ever. For the next two years while everyone’s running around, there could be more meetings and events than ever before. All of that is going to create activity. We shouldn’t panic in the short term.”

 

Rob Sherwood, managing director of Forest Exhibitions, organiser of Automechanika Birmginham said: It’s a hugely disappointing result from a referendum which should never have taken place. I have deep concern for export for SME’s in particular, and for the UK Automotive industry. Let’s hope that the coming months will offer some hope of trade deals and economic stability.”

 

Dale Parmenter, CEO of fully integrated communications and presentations specialists, drp, said that we must focus on business as usual: “We are so good in this country at over speculating and sensationalism. We need to be calm while the uncertainty continues and look for the opportunities, while keeping a close eye on the threats. Unfortunately our sector is dominated so much by how large global corporates respond and act, we need to understand what it all means for them and hope it all the noise settles as quickly as possible.”

 

Alan Newton, co-founder and COO of Eventopedia said: “Personally, I feel very frustrated at the result and the manner in which the campaigns were managed, but we must now deal with it and identify and act upon the positives. The markets were informing us pre vote that they were not favouring Brexit and they’ve certainly responded in that manner this morning. However, we also know that markets can have knee-jerk responses before recovering, so we have to be patient and allow the dust to settle.

 

"This level of uncertainty will, in the short to medium term, have a big negative impact on I’d say all budgetary targets for this year probably have to be revisited. Any outbound events where the budget is held in the UK will also be heavily impacted by the sharp loss in the value of Sterling, which may lead to some events being curtailed or cancelled due to increased budgetary pressure. As for the long-term, quite frankly, who knows.”

If you would like to comment on the UK and international events industry about the Brexit decision, please email abyrne@mashmedia.net.

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