HBAA, the association for the meetings, events and accommodation industry, is calling for the UK government to urgently lift the current ban on venue site inspection visits because it is delaying and preventing meeting and event bookings and blocking the industry’s return to business.
Des Mclaughlin, Managing Director of Meet Events and HBAA Strategy Director, said: “Our industry is facing a colossal problem because clients are not willing to sign an event contract without a site inspection and the government’s latest roadmap does not permit site visits until 17 May at the earliest, despite venues adhering to strict Covid-safe policies. This is blocking the return of a £70bn industry.
“There is also a real disparity in the guidelines between industries which the government must address immediately. Estate agents have been permitted to conduct house viewings throughout this last lockdown. So why is there still a ban on organised and controlled visits to venues that are operating professionally under Covid-19 protocols?
“While it is great news that there has been a surge of enquiries since the government announced its roadmap out of lockdown a few weeks ago, it has been extremely challenging for venues to respond to the sudden demand and balance staffing levels when many key personnel are on furlough because venues have been forced to close and do not have any immediate incoming business.”
This topic was raised at the HBAA Let’s Talk Business Event last week. Beckie Towle, founder of The Events Raccoon and HBAA Marketing Director, was one of the agency members who hosted a session with venue members. Their discussion revealed that while some venues offer virtual tours, it is not sufficient to progress enquiries and provisional bookings to confirmations or contracts being signed.
Venue members also said there is a need to promote flexible terms to clients, and that ease of service and agreeing realistic timelines for responses is important. There is also a willingness from venues to work with agencies on contracts and establish open lines of communication to secure client confidence and commitment.
Mclaughlin concludes: “The government must now act quickly to remove the roadblocks in our path because, now we are starting to see customer demand, it is critical for our sector to get back to business before it’s too late and we lose more fantastic companies and talented individuals.”