On 23rd June 2016 the referendum decision for United Kingdom to leave the European Union (EU) surprised some of us, fuelling a great number of discussions around the topic by bringing in the pros and cons of Brexit. As a European student I am especially interested in this seeing as I am about to enter the events industry soon and there is much uncertainty surrounding the topic. Nevertheless I will try not to have my personal political views interfere with my analysis which will focus primarily on the events sector and the main positive and negative impacts Brexit will have on it.
The next day after the vote, June 24th, the Conference & Incentive Travel Magazine (C&IT)’s poll announced that 83% of the event professionals do not believe that the decision will have an overall positive impact on the events industry (Houghton, 2016). Even if it may be too early to argue on the actual impacts created by Brexit, it is worth talking about the perspectives of both attendees and event managers in order to create a clear understanding on the potential changes. However until 2019 many of the questions will remain unanswered; it’s the first time a European Union country takes such a decision and there are many procedures that have never been implemented before and must be thought through very carefully (Layzell, 2016). The overall discussion still revolves around the economic impacts and the complexity of delivering large scale international events.
“The disruption created by Brexit will, I believe, make our work significantly more difficult. Everyone in the events industry is aware of the complexity of organising international events, and Brexit will only increase the challenges.”
says Segar Adrian – the owner of Conferences that Work
Merely the negative impacts are linked to the:
- Economic uncertainty and value of the pound went down therefore the foreign exchange rate may represent an issue. Looking from an event manager’s perspective the negative is that the costs of any imported goods (products, suppliers, equipment) will increase possibly due to trade restrictions which apply to non-EU countries (BVEP, 2016a).
- Increased competition from the European market. Due to visa restrictions entrepreneurs in the events domain will most likely choose countries with more relaxed immigration policies to base their company in, making European business owners in turn more likely to choose local companies in favour of British ones. (Houghton, 2016).
“Many of them are thinking out loud on moving certain meetings, conventions and other events out of London to other European cities like Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam.”
says Kevin Van der Straeten – from Event Planner TV
- Less workforce and skilful professionals because figures show that the industry heavily relies upon migrants and alternatively cultural advantages may not be met without the immigrants (Houghton, 2016). This could also refer to sourcing temporary staff for events (Event Manager Blog, 2017a).
On the other hand, the positive impacts on the event industry will be reflected in:
- Global expansion – Leaving the ‘internal’ market, seen as a long term impact, therefore allowing companies new trading and negotiations for example with USA and other Commonwealth countries, as well as Asia which could result in potential growth and development within the industry (Layzell, 2016).
- Sterling drop: Yes, it is also a positive factor, if looked from attendees’ perspective, more visitors are likely to visit Britain, attracting tourists to new destinations, which indeed may represent an event audience growth (Event Manager Blog, 2017a). This fact however is disputed. Firstly it should be noted that currently UK citizens have complete freedom of movement around EU. In less than two years, the change may include VISA’s in order to travel to European countries and vice-versa (Event Manager Blog, 2017b). Although being under negotiations, the decisions upon the VISA’s and travel regulations are not yet existent.
During the summer period, Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP) have conducted a survey for event professionals called “BVEP Events Industry Referendum Impact Survey” revealing the current situation in the industry (BVEP, 2016a; Youde, 2016). When asked to give an opinion from an event manager’s perspective, what is the next step or priority to focus on following the referendum decision, over 62% of respondents said that safeguarding trade by engaging with new markets and reducing uncertainty would be the most important factor for them. According to the BVEP report, alternative concerns relate to reviewing the existing legislation in order to ensure that future business can be conducted efficiently (17%), investing in UK infrastructure to improve the competition on the global market (12%) and ultimately investing in people in order to help the industry manage with the impact of changes to foreign worker status in UK (9%) (BVEP, 2016a).
There are many arguments to dispute around the negative impacts of Brexit and rather than criticising them, a more positive approach should be initiated. In response BVEP published this March, a policy report which mainly highlights how events will help shape Britain’s future after Brexit (Flach, 2017; Parry, 2017). I have listed them bellow:
Summarising, the events industry, although challenged to face new changes it still shows various opportunities for global growth and therefore will continue to invest, develop and grow on a global scale. Brexit or not, events will continue to shape experiences and event managers will find new ways to make it happen.