The Business Visits & Events Partnership (BVEP), the advocacy group for the UK’s £70bn events industry, has welcomed the relaxation of the current two metre physical distancing rule, 23 June, but is continuing to strongly push the government to provide a clear date for the UK events industry to re-open.

Social distancing will be relaxed from 4 July, when the wider hospitality industry reopens. People will be expected to adhere to ‘one meter plus’ rule, and follow further measures such as reducing face-to-face contact in favour of side-to-side.

Simon Hughes, chair of the BVEP, welcomed the news, but insisted it is immaterial on its own without a firm restart date for the events industry. “While we all welcome today’s news, which has come as a result of sustained work by the BVEP and its Partners to provide strong evidence as to how this will benefit the industry and make its survival more likely, we continue to press strongly for a date as to when live events can take place, and under what circumstances.” 

Hughes added that a lot of work has gone into ensuring the industry can operate not only safely, but viably as well. He added: “As an industry we have been working together, with government, to look at how we can reopen safely, while ensuring that we can have a commercially viable business model going forward. Venues, agencies and suppliers have been working tirelessly over the past few months to prepare for what we hope will now be a green light to open. We are ready. Now let us get back to work and use events to help our country recover.”

The BVEP, which represents the vast majority of associations across the UK events sector, along with all of the leading destinations, has also warned that if the industry is not allowed to open up safely as quickly as possible, it risks losing in excess of £50bn of direct spend and the loss of over 500,000 jobs.

It has also continued to make the case that we are a world class industry which has the ability, if allowed, to use the power of events to provide world class solutions to help deliver economic and cultural benefits, drive our industrial strategy, secure jobs and reinforce our international reputation.

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association said she was “extremely disappointed” that the announcement does not provide any clarity or direction for the business meetings and events sector.

She said: “Without a start date, the social distancing reduction to one metre is totally irrelevant for our industry that currently provides over 700,000 jobs to a diverse and highly skilled UK based workforce.

“It is particularly frustrating as through our persistent campaigning and communication, the mia has collaborated and provided direct intelligence to the the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s (DCMS) Visitor Economy Working Group of the devastating impact the lack of clarity and the restrictions are causing.

“Through the launch of our roadmap as well as AIM Secure, our new enhanced national quality accreditation for venues that features vital infection prevention and control protocols, we are able to demonstrate how our sector can manage the risk, operate safely and encourage confidence to rebuild business events that facilitates in excess of £165bn in trade.”

Lex Butler, chair of the Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA) also welcomed the news, but insisted that, still, further financial help is needed to keep businesses solvent. She said: “Covid-19 and lockdown have been a hammer blow to business events, meetings and accommodation agencies, venues and suppliers, for the whole sector. By reducing social distancing to one metre plus and providing guidelines, the Government has wrapped the hammer in plastic.

“However, while we welcome the relaxing of this distance, damage has been done. The introduction of one metre plus social distancing makes meetings and events just about viable, keeping it at two metres they would not have been. The requirement for everyone to identify themselves as they arrive is an additional safety measure and giving everyone the confidence to visit venues and meet again safely is the immediate priority for our industry.

“Now, after chasing these guidelines for many weeks, the industry has less than two weeks to put the exact requirements in place. It’s a challenge but one we’re pleased to have at last.

“Even so, many thousands of people in the business events, accommodation and meetings industry will still be made redundant in the coming days, weeks and months. The industry still needs extra financial support, a special extension of the furlough scheme, continuing business rates relief, commercial rent relief, a delay in payment of corporation tax and a reduction in VAT on accommodation and meetings packages, until Spring 2021 to keep businesses alive when, we hope, the hammer blows will stop and business will hopefully return.”

Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound said that the announcement that pubs, restaurants, hotels and attractions can officially reopen will come as a “huge relief” to businesses across the tourism and hospitality industry, who have earned little revenue since the beginning of March.

“Reducing social distancing from two metres to one will also ensure that many more businesses will be able to viably reopen at the start of next month,” said Croft.

“We are pleased that the Government has also listened to industry and is on the verge of agreeing ‘air corridors’ with a number of countries; a step that signals that the UK’s tourism inbound industry is keen to welcome international tourists again. Although these measures are very much to be welcomed, Government needs to recognise that while some businesses will hopefully be able to re-coup a small proportion of their losses over the much shorter summer season, many businesses, especially those that rely wholly or mostly on inbound tourism, will have gone through the equivalent of ‘three winters’ and will need further financial support if they are to survive and continue to drive jobs and growth across the UK.”