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February 22, 2007

CONFEX LATEST: EIA cracks the code

revor Foley, Chief Executive of the Events Industry Alliance (EIA) confirmed yesterday that the live events and exhibitions industry has at long last secured recognition at government level with the award of its own SIC (Standard Industry Code), 82.20.

"This is just massive for Britain, and for our industry," commented a delighted Foley. "It's a giant leap forward in that it cements our ability to draw upon governmental and potentially even financial support for the industry and particularly in our bids to host international events and exhibitions."

The SIC code award is a bit like getting on to the BT agency roster for production companies. It means that the EIA can effectively approach government procurement with the knowledge that it will be acknowledged in its own right rather than previously sitting within the ambivalent 74.87 code which is for 'other businesses not classified'. Most importantly, it means that government has acknowledged the value, in terms of inward investment as well as potential tax revenues and employment, that can be derived from securing and supporting local and international events, and that it has its own data to justify its support.

The EIA, like so many industry associations or trade marketing bodies, is often criticised as self-serving and ineffectual. However, Foley should be immensely proud of securing status in the corridors of Westminster because, for sure, this will have material benefit for exhibition organisers, venues, production companies and agencies alike who will enjoy a more level playing field, with government backing, than they have experienced in the past.

At a packed seminar theatre in Earls Court attended by other trade bodies set to benefit, including Eventia, Foley was quick to credit John Sanders of Exposure Communications, formerly of the AEC (Association of Exhibition Contractors), whose initiative and lobbying was pivotal to the governmental recognition that has been secured.

The acid test of the government's metal will now surely come when UK organisers are pitched against the European venues for travelling B2B exhibitions. Some of these events, such as ITU World Telecom, would fill ExCeL and every hotel room within five miles of it let alone wear the tarmac out at City airport. To date however, regional and city support for such events have ensured that the Germans, in particular, have filled their Messe's at the UK's expense. Maybe now, at long long last, an open-eyed Exchequer will level the playing field.

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