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June 24, 2016

How the UK’s Vote to Leave EU Could Impact Meetings and Events

Photo by Freeimages.com/Guillaume Roux

With the UK’sLeave” campaign winning the vote to exit the European Union (EU), meetings and events industry leaders are forecasting uncertainty ahead. 

“The concern for our industry is the uncertainty of the next two years because it'll take two years to extract ourselves and no-one knows how to that will go or what we need to do,” Kevin Jackson, chair of the International Live Events Association (ILEA), tells our partner publication meetpie. “But the event industry is a robust industry and a relationship-based industry and we've got strong relationships across Europe and around the world.”

Jackson said that he did not expect events to be cancelled in the wake of the vote, although the result did come as a shock. 

In Conference & Meetings World, Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association (mia), called on the events industry to “embrace the referendum result.”

“We can’t sit back and rest on our laurels and expect consumer confidence to return and business to just flood in – particularly from outside of the European Union,” Longhurst told Conference & Meetings World. “Instead, organisations need to re-evaluate their business plans and develop creative ways to actively encourage cross-border relations and inbound tourism from our European counterparts as well as diversify to attract the international pound.”

Mike McCormick, executive director and COO of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), forecasts a “period of change” ahead for the EU. 

“While it is impossible to immediately assess the implications of the result on the UK, European and global economy and on international relations and world order at this point, GBTA remains committed to the same principles it always holds strong: ensuring business travelers maintain freedom of movement, business is not disrupted, travel infrastructure remains strong and programs and bilateral agreements that facilitate safe and secure travel like the EU-US visa waiver exemption continue,” McCormick said. 

At the same time, there are some signs of trouble ahead. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is forecasting UK air travel to be 3 to 5 percent lower than it would have been had the country remained in the EU by 2020 due to an expected downturn in economic activity and the fall in the pound’s exchange rate. That translates to a reduction in air passenger growth by 1 to 1.5 percentage points each year over the near term. 

Whatever the outcome, it will take some time for the full impact of the decision to be felt. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) notes that, under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, there will be a two year period of negotiation that can be extended by all parties following the UK’s formal statement of its intention to leave the EU. 

Also on the horizon: the vote has revived talk of Scotland’s potential independence from the UK. Speaking to the BBC, Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that a second independence referendum is “highly likely,” with Sturgeon calling it “democratically unacceptable” that Scotland could be taken out of the EU against its will. 

Scotland voted to remain in the UK in a 2014 referendum. 

How do you think the Brexit vote will impact your business? Let us know on our Facebook page or in the comments below. 

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About the Author: Adam Leposa





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