Event industry positives picked out from the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget on 18 March by EVCOM CEO Marco Forgione (pictured) included further help for SMEs and National Insurance changes to help freelancers.
“Content creators could benefit from the additional support for film and TV,” Forgione noted, but believed the Chancellor missed an opportunity to support business tourism in general and to recognise that the communication landscape had changed.
“Content creation has moved on substantially. The UK is home to the global centre of excellence in business and brand communication, a sector valued at over £40bn to the UK economy. This sector should be supported and encouraged,” Forgione said.
Nevertheless, the EVCOM chief welcomed the changes to apprenticeships and encouragement for skills development “particularly as our proposal for an Apprenticeship Trailblazer has been given the ministerial go ahead”, he noted.
Forgione said he was “delighted” the government had pledged £1.5m to next year’s International Festival of Business. “This provides a great opportunity for our industry to showcase ourselves to the world.”
In a statement on the Budget, VisitEngland welcomed the announcement of new funding to market the North East to attract more visitors from Scandinavia. The national tourism board’s CEO James Berresford described the move as “a fantastic opportunity to strengthen well established links between these two regions with a fresh proposition to the Nordic market. We hope this funding to create export business for the North East will give others the confidence to invest in new services and capitalise on this demand stimulation package,” he added.
“NewcastleGateshead Initiative is well placed to lead this activity working with partners locally supported by VisitEngland and VisitBritain,” Berresford added.
Berresford also welcomed the proposed new investment in digital infrastructure and the £600m to be put into improving mobile phone services and for all premises in the country to have access to 100 megabit high-speed broadband, describing the move as “a real boost for rural tourism businesses”.
In terms of skills, Berresford said the introduction of apprenticeship vouchers and the eventual cutting of employers’ NI for apprentices could help stimulate the sector to take on much needed apprentices to support the growth in tourism. “Skills shortages are a real threat to the sector’s continued success, so anything that makes it easier to attract more talent is very welcome,” he said.
The VisitEngland chief said that devolution could benefit areas like Manchester, which is to be allowed to retain 100% of additional business rates under new Budget measures. It is a deal that could be offered to Cambridge, too, it emerged.
“Plans to create more enterprise zones and new devolution deals, may lead to regional and local authorities with the ability to invest more in tourism. We will be campaigning to make the case to these new fund holders that tourism is a highly effective area for investment to create regional economic growth,” said Berresford, who added that funding for cultural and heritage events announced in the Budget would provide focal points to drive visitor numbers around the country.
“We know from previous experience that momentous anniversaries and celebrations of our heritage and culture can support the visitor economy,” he said.
Meanwhile, financial penalties levied on banks involved in the LIBOR lending rate-fixing scandal are to benefit the RAF Museum, a venue in North West London, the Chancellor said.
George Osborne said the government would help finance the renovation of the RAF Museum in Hendon.
The Chancellor said: “The RAF Museum in Hendon (North West London) is a great cause. I’m delighted that they will get millions of pounds in LIBOR fines – a fitting way to mark the extraordinary contribution the RAF has made and continues to make in service to our country.”
Museum chief executive Maggie Appleton said the museum’s centenary project was “incredibly important as it commemorates 100 years of the RAF. The story we tell reflects the bravery, ingenuity and dedication of our people. It is a story that belongs to every one of us. We are therefore very grateful for the support and acknowledgement we received.”
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