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Intelligence / 8.29.17

View From Here: London & the United Kingdom

By Paul Miller

Standing on the River Thames in the south east of the island of Great Britain, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. The Romans founded it in 50 A.D. and named it Londinium. A leading global city in the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, professional services, research and development, tourism, and transportation, it is the world's largest financial centre and has the fifth or sixth largest metropolitan area GDP in the world.

London is a world cultural capital. It is the world's most-visited city as measured by international arrivals and has the world’s largest city airport system measured by passenger traffic. It is also the world's leading investment destination, hosting more international retailers and ultra-high-net-worth individuals than any other city. London's universities form the largest concentration of higher education institutes in Europe. In 2012, London became the first city to have hosted the modern Summer Olympic games three times.

UK Business Events Industry is Thriving

After Brexit, skeptics thought Europe would turn their back on the UK and it was widely predicted that costs in the UK would rise. On the contrary, London and the UK are now more affordable! The exchange rate between the pound and dollar has created a 20% discount that has turned heads, and we are receiving more enquiries for business events than ever before. Companies that have avoided the UK because of costs can now make it a reality.

The business events industry in the UK is thriving, as confirmed in the recent “State of the Industry Study” published by C&IT Magazine. The report revealed that 71% of the UK’s top agencies expect to plan more events in 2017 than last year and 83% are forecasting financial growth for 2017-2018. The great news is that Incentive Travel is the biggest growth area for B2B events, followed by conferences and roadshows.

“In a 12-month period book-ended by Brexit and more terror attacks the events industry rallied behind London, with 91% of corporate planners and 88% of agencies surveyed naming the capital as their most popular city for events domestically.” – C&IT Magazine State of the Industry Report 2017

Large global congresses that would normally travel to the United States are now considering Europe (especially London) due to concerns around US travel policies, as opposed to more flexible visa and immigration policies in Europe. And, although safety and security is still top of mind, international travellers are becoming more resilient and enigmatic about the dangers of terrorism since it has become an indiscriminate danger everywhere.

Through Ups and Downs, the Business Events Industry is Resilient

Over the past 16 years (since 9/11), our industry has experienced many ups and downs caused by climate, medical, economic or terrorist threats, and the future is bound to continue to be a rollercoaster ride. That is why organizations like SITE are so important. Rather than making destination decisions influenced by sensational headlines, it is important to reach out to SITE members - suppliers on the ground - to be advised of the real situation.

The reality is that life goes on in the MICE industry just like any other. We have to be chameleons and, to coin a phrase from SITE’s very own Jane Schuldt, “where there is change, there is always opportunity”.

Paul Miller is Managing Director, Spectra DMC headquartered in London, England. Paul served as SITE President in 2014, the same year SITE was re-branded to Society for Incentive Travel Excellence.

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