Exhibition News October 2018 - Page 25

COVER FEATURE “I’m not entirely sure there’s anyone there helping guide the novice through the maze of government” Simon Kimble, Chairman, Clarion Events “The government thrust is to see a global Britain, and by a global Britain it wants to attract more international events to take place in Britain” Michael Hirst OBE, Chair, BVEP economic benefits of business events. “Since then we’ve been plodding, and it has been a plod,” says Hirst. “Over those 20 years we have challenged the government to do more for the industry, but it wasn’t until 2015 that the lights really went on.” Over the years the BVEP had presented the government with various manifestos on various topics, but in 2015 it decided it was time to lobby for a formal industry-government partnership. The government agreed to establish the Event Industry Board – a direct link between the industry and representatives from DCMS and the Department of International Trade (DIT), Sajid Javid MP, then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, published the Business Visits and Events Strategy, the document on which the current relationship is still based. “It’s sole focus is essentially to grow the international footprint of Britain as a destination for world events," continues Hirst. “Those events need to be in harmony with the government's industrial strategy, which is still evolving.” A global Britain Kerrin MacPhie, Head of Buisness Events, VisitBritain “The fact that the Business Events Growth Programme is supported wholly by government speaks volumes, and the relationship that we have with DCMS is very strong” Chris Skeith, CEO, Association of Event Organisers “DCMS has been holding out a hand to us for a few years now. The government ultimately wants to talk to one person about the events sector and the BVEP is able to field the team that’s relevant to that conversation” issues and also working with others who have the same common ground. That’s partly why the BVEP forms such an important part of this, because it collates from exhibitions, conferences, outdoor events, smaller events etc. the issues that members of those areas’ disparate trade associations are dealing with. We can pool all of that and go with one voice.” The industry’s current relationship with the government has its roots back in 1997, when the Conservative Party met to devise a business tourism strategy, to be included in that year’s election manifesto. It was, says Hirst, the first time that business tourism had been recognised as its own category, distinct from leisure tourism. The then Secretary of State for Natio nal Heritage, Virginia Bottomle,y commissioned an industry report. Hirst continues: “I was sitting opposite the Secretary of State. I had no direct interest in the sector but then she said, ‘we’ve got to do a report, who’s going to chair it?’ She looked up, I looked down...and that was it. “We produced the report in 1997, which came up with a recommendation that there be a standing group of interests to represent business tourism. That was the forerunner of the BVEP." A matter of months later the Conservative Party lost out to Labour in the 1997 general election but, in an unusual move, the new minister accepted the recommendation and saw it through, resulting in the launch of the BVEP in 1999. An umbrella organisation, comprised of trade and professional organisations, government agencies and other significant influencers in the business visits and events sector, the BVEP aimed to: • Garner the cohesive opinion of these stakeholders and to collectively influence and develop policies • Raise sector awareness of the social and This is perhaps a good moment for VisitBritain to enter the story. In 2010 the DIT-funded body decided to take a step back from promoting business visits and events. This decision was reversed in early 2016, when it created a business visits and events department and began to grow its resources and construct a programme of support. More recently, in 2018 Kerrin MacPhie – previously director of conference and exhibition sales at ACC Liverpool – joined as head of business events. EN sat down with MacPhie to learn a bit more about VisitBritain’s revitalised relationship with the industry. “The government has put money behind supporting business events and it’s been utilised to help destinations across the UK to go out and bid for events,” she tells EN. “Last year we saw there was an opportunity to help UK domestic events grow to an international audience. We know the international audience spends more, so any way we can support the growth of international visitors is great.” VisitBritain offers support for organisers both in the form of a financial boost and also what is known as ‘soft power’ – which can involve advocacy support from key ministers and helping organisers make helpful connections in government. “This is in place,” adds MacPhie. “The more people we speak to the more people we realise don’t understand the detail of it. It’s not something we want to keep quiet about, we want to push it out there.If you have a domestic event, you can come as an independent person to the fund; you don’t have to come exhibitionnews.co.uk | October 2018 25