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Government urged to lift ban on venue site inspections

The Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA) has called on the Government to urgently lift the current ban on venue site inspection visits.

The association says it is delaying and preventing meeting and event bookings and blocking the industry’s return to business. According to information given to the associations by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, venue site inspections and similar work-related activities that would take place in an indoor setting may not go ahead until 17 May.

There has been confusion to date, with the Government’s ‘Stay at Home’ law ending on 29 March and hospitality venues being able to reopen and serve customers outdoors from 12 April.

Des Mclaughlin, managing director of Meet Events and HBAA strategy director, said that the industry is facing a “colossal problem” because clients are not willing to sign an event contract without a site inspection. “The Government’s latest roadmap does not permit site visits until 17 May at the earliest, despite venues adhering to strict Covid-safe policies. This is blocking the return of a £70bn industry,” he said.

Conferences and meetings are worth £32bn in director spend to the UK economy annually, nearly half of the events industry’s pre-Covid value.

“There is also a real disparity in the guidelines between industries which the Government must address immediately,” Mclaughlin added. “Estate agents have been permitted to conduct house viewings throughout this last lockdown. So why is there still a ban on organised and controlled visits to venues that are operating professionally under Covid-19 protocols?”

Mclaughlin said that while it was great news that there has been a surge of enquiries since the Government announced its roadmap out of lockdown a few weeks ago, it has proved “extremely challenging” for venues to respond to the sudden demand and balance staffing levels when many key personnel are on furlough because venues have been forced to close and do not have any immediate incoming business.

Mclaughlin said the Government must now act quickly. He added: “The Government must now act quickly to remove the roadblocks in our path because, now we are starting to see customer demand, it is critical for our sector to get back to business before it’s too late and we lose more fantastic companies and talented individuals.”

Beckie Towle, founder of The Events Raccoon and HBAA marketing director, hosted a discussion with fellow agency members and revealed that while some venues offer virtual tours, they were not sufficient to progress enquiries and provisional bookings to confirmations or contracts being signed. 

Venue members also reported there is a need to promote flexible terms to clients, and that ease of service and agreeing realistic timelines for responses is important. There is a willingness from venues to work with agencies on contracts and establish open lines of communication to secure client confidence and commitment. 

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