Margaret Hodge MP, Minister for Tourism, has told business tourism leaders from the Business Tourism Partnership that she is prepared to offer her support for international event bids. She also pledged to write to Whitehall colleagues and flag up the importance of supporting bids for large events. This would include encouraging the Foreign Office and UKTI to take part in a joint programme, in addition to other government departments where particular interests could be married to specific events.
It was agreed that a formal planning mechanism, looking 5 years in advance, would be developed by a VisitBritain and Department for Culture, Media and Sport working group which would submit proposals to the Minister. Events which would receive preference would be those which met the economic and social priorities of the Government’s agenda.
It is hoped that one or two events will be identified to form a benchmark for a Ministerial bid support programme. Such a programme will include writing letters of endorsement, making contacts with key decision makers, welcoming visiting delegations, attending key events and opening ceremonies.
The Minister was also told of concerns regarding the availability and value of subvention packages to attract international events and concerns over the cost of business visas and issues regarding accessing visas for business traveller groups. She requested details of subvention packages and other data to be sent to her and agreed to take up the industry’s concerns with the Home Office.
Michael Hirst, Chairman of the Business Tourism Partnership said that, “Bids for international events have the greatest impact when supported and attended by Ministers. The United Kingdom competes against Countries whose local and national politicians become very involved in playing a leading role in event bids, so it is vital that our politicians do the same. The level of Government support is often the most important factor for international buyers in deciding where to place events”.
He added. “There’s no better example of how important ministerial support wins more business for Britain than the 2012 Olympics in 2012 and the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Both events were won with the wholehearted proactive backing of local and national politicians. Business tourism will be the biggest beneficiary from these events. Major international conferences and exhibitions held in Britain similarly boost Britain’s standing, jobs and trade well beyond that of many sporting events”.
Margaret Hodge said, “The London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games provide business tourism and events with an excellent opportunity to push the UK’s share of the global events tourism market to an all time high. The sector is of vital importance to the UK economy and 2012 gives us a unique opportunity to reinforce our position as a premier destination for business tourism”.
She added, “To make the most of this opportunity, Government and industry must forge a strong partnership which must work in both the international and domestic market. I look forward to seeing the results of the work we will be doing together to strengthen our efforts to secure more events for the UK.
“In due course, I will write to Whitehall colleagues to flag up the importance of our support for the sector. And, of course, I will continue to represent the industry’s concerns on visas issues with the Home Department”.