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Impact of the Result of the Referendum on Attendance to Events

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Britain’s Events industry is worth over £41 billion to the economy through direct visitor spend, and account for around 35% of the UK visitor economy. Inbound business visits to Britain equate to 23.5% of all visits and 24% of all overseas visitor spend. Conferences, meetings, incentive travel and exhibitions contribute over £21 billion to tax revenues. There are around 1.34 million meetings held in Britain each year worth £19.2 billion. UK exhibitions attract over 13 million visitors each year, generating £11 billion in spend, boosting trade and exports through over £150 billion of goods sold at exhibitions and trade shows. Britain’s leading UK exhibitors generate 72% of their earnings overseas representing £2 billion of export earnings from over 1000 events attracting 340,000 exhibitors and 6.3 million attendees.

While the effects of Brexit will be uncertain until the final terms of negotiations are known, there are a number of areas that could have direct bearing on attendance to events in the UK. Such areas include the ease and cost of travel, employment of non-UK events professionals, future EU trade agreements, event funding and the choice of UK cities as the host for international events. The argument over whether the UK event landscape will be more or less appealing to EU companies has strong supporters on both sides. However, for event businesses, the reality is that every change in any market is an opportunity.

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Budget will tighten, but the tightening budget does not transcend to shrinking performance expectations. There will be initial high cost of travel, and if movement is restricted into the UK, ease of travel will be hampered too. Uncertainty is a bad thing for markets as it leads to instability, which in turn can lead to falling share prices and a falling pound. Whilst a weakened Sterling will reduce company’s overall income, unit costs of goods and services will also reduce, leading to affordability of relevant travels. One thing that is constant in event industry is the demand for good results and quality performance. Event companies and professionals can leverage on this and achieve high customer loyalty and sustainability. “Tourism, leisure and overall travel can continue to grow under Brexit! Initially, a weaker pound will encourage travellers and exports will also flourish”.

The UK is dependent on EU nationals, with a greater proportion of non-UK professionals working in event industry. The terms of the UK exit from the European Union can reduce the ability of European Economic Area (EEA) qualified professionals to work in the UK. This may lead to a sharp reduction in the work force, thereby suffocating the predicted growth of the event industry. There is already a growing challenge in mitigating the shortfall in event workers in London, and the current political climate can only worsen this problem, since the retention and the recruitment of non-UK qualified EU event professionals is likely to be affected. “Against the backdrop of the lowest jobless rate since 1975 and the different demands of millennial in the workplace, a significant proportion of those EU workers, who responded to survey, said they were thinking about (or were already planning on) leaving the UK. This finding means that employers in the event sector may need to do two things: first, take a hard look at their approach to recruitment, retention, motivation and work patterns in order to retain their best people. And second, examine how they can accelerate existing moves towards AI, robotics and automation”. When events start to diminish due to shortage of human capital, the consequence is that attendance also shrink because if there is no event, there will be no attendance to events.

It has been estimated that there will be reduced trade after Brexit, for example, the UK automobile trade will fall drastically as Europe is their major market. Foreign investments will reduce, leading to unsavory economic consequences. “We estimate the effects of Brexit on trade and the UK’s contribution to the EU budget would be equivalent to a fall in income of between 1.3% and 2.6% (£850 to £1,700 per household per year)”. The economic hardship will reflect on company and individual finances in a way that will impact negatively on attendance to vents.

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, thereby causing a downsize to the funding of vents. Travel impacts event planners and their budgets. Almost half of the world’s exhibition space is in Europe, and with oil and aircraft priced in dollars, the decrease in value of the Sterling will mean more expensive flights, in the short-term at least. The result will be a tight event funding budgets that will limit the number event-related travels and attendances t events.

One concern is that London’s position as the global center for events will be eroded as it’s already being directly challenged by Berlin and Paris for the title of ‘European capital of cool’. This can only increase by the impacts of EU leave results. Attendances to events across Europe will be affected by poor choices in Location. An event will still struggle to record adequate attendance because tighter boarders with EU countries will restrict movements; so, event companies and professionals will favor locations that offer more prospects of profits, which Berlin and Paris may promise better than London.

Conclusion

Attendee engagement will see immediate disruption because gone are the days when attending an event was an easy way out of the office. With £6.4bn spent annually in delegate and attendee registration fees for UK business events, businesses can hardly afford for their employees to attend as many as before. Attendance to events need to be re-evaluated by employers to articulate a possible Return on Investment by providing Networking opportunities, making contacts with new clients, meeting industry experts or gaining early access to new discoveries.

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