General Election to provide Westminster meetings dividend?

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Reaction from London’s Westminster venues to PM Theresa May’s calling of a snap General Election indicates a likely silver lining of extra meetings and events business for the area.

Diane Waldron, QEII Centre director of sales and marketing, told CN: “Any major political event such as a General Election naturally leads to more smaller events in the run-up, such as media broadcasts.

“Westminster is at the heart of the action, and so the QEII Centre does see a spike in enquiries ahead of such events. Since the announcement yesterday (18 April) that a General Election would be held on 8 June, we have had related enquiries come in and we expect to receive more in the coming weeks.”

Paul Southern, MD of Central Hall Westminster, said his venue had already received a number of enquiries for event space due to its location. At the last election, Central Hall hosted the final live PM debate between each of the parties and Southern expects to do the same this time around. Southern and his team say they are expecting a busy time ahead in the run-up to the June 2017 General Election.

Central Hall has a history of being the centre of live debates and memorable speeches. The venue held the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in 1946 and has hosted famous speakers such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill.

Also, earlier this year the French candidate Emmanuel Macron gave a speech at Central Hall.

Robin Parker, GM at Church House in Westminster took a contrary view, however. He told CN: “Another General Election is certainly not good for business, and historically we have seen about a 20% drop in revenue for May and June in years where there has been an election. The difference this time though is that there is only a seven-week lead up to polling day, and therefore a higher percentage of the larger events are already in place. Where we will feel an effect is in the smaller meetings which tend to book later, and are generally for the various government departments in the area.

“Will we pick up business due to the election? In previous years, surprisingly, not a great deal. This is a nationwide election, and Westminster isn’t the focus of attention. Parliament will have been dissolved and the Government departments in the area will be in Purdah, meaning that very little will be happening in the Westminster Village.”

Simon Hughes, vice-chair of the Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP) gave a ‘steady as we go’ message.

“Regardless of the Election, the agenda for the events industry will be the same as we set out in our recent policy document, ‘Opportunities for Global Growth in Britain’s Events Sector’. But we will be watching carefully the commitment each party makes during the Election on the opportunities that will benefit the events industry – namely trade, talent and tariffs – which remain critical to future success.

“Assurances that the work of the Events Industry Board and VisitBritain will both continue and be reinforced will be welcome, too.”

The Meeting Industry Association’s chief executive Jane Longhurst had been one of the first in the sector to react to the news of an impending Election, issuing a statement, 19 April, saying: “For future economic prosperity and to ensure our sector continues to thrive and the UK remains the destination of choice for international business events, it is essential that the government is united and stable to negotiate the best deal for the UK as we exit the European Union.”

She added that Prime Minister Theresa May had “no option” but to make the announcement.

Paul Colston

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Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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