The UK voted by a roughly 52 per cent majority to leave the European Union, followed shortly by Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation.
The exhibition and wider events industry has been reacting to the EU Referendum result and seeking a way forward.
Sergey Alexeev, UFI president, and Kai Hattendorf, UFI managing director, issued a joint statement: “The markets have reacted as expected, with sharp losses, signalling question marks over the economic future of both the UK and Europe. Uncertainty about the future is rising. What will this mean for our industry? The exhibition industry provides the world’s market places for trade and exchange, and is hence strongly linked to global economical developments. Ripples from the UK referendum will be felt in our industry, mirroring developments in other sectors.
“That being said, exhibitions and other types of events, are particularly crucial in difficult times – as we have seen in the global financial crisis of 2008/09. As leading figures and companies of industry sectors gather at their international and global trade shows, they will take stock of the situation. There will be exchange, collaboration, and trade. And, in addition to the economic context, trade shows will continue to bring together people from different nations, cultures and religions, to work together and help their respective industries and economies to grow.
“Naturally, as an association promoting and representing the trade show industry, we support ease of travel to allow people to attend trade shows and do business together. We make a stand for transparent rules and laws on trade, to support economic exchange and growth. And we champion openness and exchange, as a ‘face to face’ industry. After the UK referendum, the global exhibition industry remains ready to support business in the UK, in Europe, and worldwide, for the best possible future for all.”
Concerto Group chief executive Sam Gill (pictured) added: “There is no doubt that the UK economy will be in a state of shock for the next few weeks. However, we must not forget that the underlying UK economy is growing and will remain one of the strongest in Europe as the negotiations proceed over the next two years. Having been through and survived many dips in business confidence over the past 30 years, I am confident that clients will continue to invest in events that add value to their staff morale and marketing activity.”
The app community, strongly aligned to the exhibition industry, has also reacted. Matt Hunt, CEO of Apadmi Enterprise, a UK app developer said: “The UK and EU are markets that have continued to offer tech businesses huge growth potential and the international business community has been overwhelmingly supportive of our industry. Technology does not observe boundaries and we have been lucky to enjoy an inspiring array of tech from the UK, Europe and even further afield, which we have been able to access and use for the benefit of our customers. The UK tech industry has been in a strong position and the only limitations we’ve faced to do business has been our own ability. With the impending Brexit, there is now a high level of risk and uncertainty over our future and questions are being asked as to how will we be able to build on our success and further grow without the support of the EU.”
Elsewhere, chairman of EVCOM, Steve Garvey, has made the following statement on behalf of the UK’s largest membership association for the live and visual communication industry. “EVCOM supports the strongest possible trade links with the European Union, regardless of the UK’s membership of it. We urge the UK Government, the European Council and the European Commission to work closely and constructively towards an orderly exit for the UK from the EU.
“The live and visual communication industry is significant, contributing approximately 2% of UK GDP. The success of EVCOM members in exporting to the EU and global markets is vital to the continued ability of our members to contribute to the success of the UK economy. Our members look to political leaders to provide stability, certainty and clarity at the earliest opportunity to support business decisions concerning investment, employment and international trade.
In particular we believe it is vital to continue to allow the free movement of people, capital, goods and services between the UK and the rest of Europe. While the UK will remain a member of the EU for some time, it is essential that our members are able to deliver events and produce screen content in the EU after the Brexit process is completed.”
The Meetings Industry Association (mia), was the first national industry associations to issue a call for the industry to embrace the result, saying the future of the industry “is in our own hands now”.
Speaking after confirmation of the Leave result, Jane Longhurst, 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 the Patch Media agency, 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 said: “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.
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 CMW 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 UK 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 resignation 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.”
Exhibition World Magazine