Keep calm and carry on: industry reacts to Brexit vote

One of the UK events industry’s first associations to react to the EU Referendum results is the Meetings Industry Association (mia), which has issued a call for the industry to embrace the result, saying the future of the UK events sector “is in our own hands now”.

Speaking after confirmation of the Leave result, Jane Longhurst (pictured), chief executive of the mia, said: “We know from talking to our members that uncertainty over the result of the EU Referendum has contributed to a lack of confidence in the stability of the industry and the wider economy in recent months.

“Many have cited that while the lead up to the referendum has not affected existing committed bookings, which is reflected in the mia’s recent Touchstone report that reviews market trends until the end of March 2016, they have witnessed a noticeable decrease in enquiries in the lead up to the polling date – something that will become more quantifiable in next quarter’s analysis.”

Longhurst added: “We need to embrace the referendum result. We can’t sit back and rest on our laurels and expect consumer confidence to return and business to just flood in – particularly from outside of the European Union. Instead, organisations need to re-evaluate their business plans and develop creative ways to actively encourage cross-border relations and inbound tourism from our European counterparts as well as diversify to attract the international pound.

“More than ever before, during this period it’s important for members of the industry to take stock of all of their internal processes. They will need to review their recruitment processes and staffing structures as well as examine ways to nurture talent internally. Additionally, it’s important to look at best practice to ensure their venue or service remains competitive through being committed to offering stringent industry standards as well as value for money.”

mia development board member Jackson Clark, who is managing director of Patch Media, added: “Now we know we’re leaving the EU it’s time to flex to the world our creative edge and uniqueness as a nation like we’ve never flexed before.”

Executive mia board member Robin Purslow, who is director of international technical event production company Eclipse, said believed that, in the short-term, “there could possibly be a spike in meeting and events business as Think Tanks and large corporates meet and look to communicate what the result means. Longer-term the industry should look to adjust their respective business models to allow for the outcome”.

General manager of The Lensbury Hotel Ivor Turner says: “As an industry we need to strategically review our five-year business plans to ensure we maximise business results from the decision.”

“Naturally there are initial concerns regarding the impact on staff and recruitment as we are heavily reliant on Europe for hospitality staff. Longer-term we need to start addressing the reasons why it is so hard to recruit UK nationals into the industry,” added Longhurst. 

Remain campaigner Eventopedia’s Alan Newton told CN: “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!”

Michael Stott, director of Whittlebury Hall Hotel and Spa, said the task was to”keep making the sector attractive to work in – training, pay, reward, professional and therefore the mia’s AIM accreditation helps all of that!”

Gywneth Gibbons, who is managing director of RGA UK, said the final outcome of leaving the EU would depend on the post exit-negotiations. “The industry should issue a message looking forward to negotiating the best deal with the EU going forward and continue to serve the UK and our European partners.”

Dale Parmenter group CEO of drp was another agency voice urging the industry to “focus on ‘business a usual’. He said: “We are so good in this country in 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 on 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”.

Parmenter told CN that because there was a lot of uncertainty regarding which way the vote would go, there was no contingency plan as of yet for his company, at least. “There is a lot of uncertainty and a lot of hype at the moment. So we need to let it calm down, its business as usual until we know what is actually going to happen. If we’re not careful, with all the hype and concern we could talk ourselves into another recession, we have to wait and see what is going to happen.”

“I have to say, I’m devastated, and slightly hungover,” was the reaction of events guru Richard John, who had argued the Remain case on the recent mia panel debate on the issue.”I knew a Brexit would see financial shockwaves, but I didn’t expect to see them on this scale – 40% drop in share price for some banks. This alone is going to hit meetings and events hard, and quite quickly. And a currency fall like that is going to have massive ramifications for anyone budgeting for overseas event, along with a swift rise in UK inflation that will probably mean an interest rate rise. Along with Cameron’s resigtation news I would expect the turmoil to continue for some time. I think there’ll be a slight economic bounce-back, but I fear our sector is going to be hit hard, and for a long time.”

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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