Over the last few weeks, it has been encouraging to see our city emerging from the stasis it has been in since March.
The phased reopening of retail and hospitality is going well and although challenging, it is clear we are currently succeeding in creating a safe and considerate environment while encouraging increased footfall back into the city centre.
It is against that background of progress that the lack of clarity around the return of conferences and business events in England feels so incongruous.
As the Government sets out its strategy to rebuild Britain and fuel economic recovery across the UK, we urge you to recognise the role that business events can play in helping to achieve this goal.
The business tourism sector is critical to the economy of Liverpool. Worth over £3.3bn a year and supporting 38,000 jobs, our visitor economy is reliant on business events to support venues, hotels, bars, restaurants, retail, attractions and taxi drivers, particularly throughout the mid-week period and often at times when leisure tourism is not at its strongest. ACC Liverpool, the city’s award winning conference and events facility has created £2billion economic impact and has attracted 8 million visitors alone in the last decade. Put simply, it is a vital contributor to Liverpool’s economy.
After the temporary respite of the much-welcomed furlough scheme, the reality of the scale of the impact of Covid-19 on the business events industry is now becoming apparent. In Liverpool, thousands of jobs hang in the balance unnecessarily.
Business events are not mass gatherings; they are highly controlled and managed. The ability to enforce additional safety measures is straightforward and we know from discussing with a range of relevant businesses in the sector that their plans far exceed the requirements currently placed on the retail and hospitality sector. The safety measures required and the ability of organisers to adapt swiftly and responsibly to any new government regulations is in-built to their standard ways of working.
It is important that we recognise that business events can be held safely in the same way that current regulations are allowing the Houses of Parliament to convene and for shopping centres, cinemas and retailers to operate.
We appreciate and understand the need for a measured approach to emerging from lockdown. However, it is crucial for Liverpool along with other UK cities to have a clear and consistent timeline on the likely return of business events, so that informed decisions can be made about how we approach the coming months. We know that event organisers on average need 8-12 week lead in to plan for events, so it is critical they are given a timeline to work to from now. For every day of continued uncertainty, recovery becomes more challenging for businesses and the threat to those jobs grows ever stronger.
Liverpool is an event and tourism city of international renown. Much of our renaissance over the previous decade has been built upon major organised gatherings, and indeed 48% of our business rates come from these sectors. The huge success of our cultural and sporting events get global headlines, but it is business tourism sitting strongly in the background that has turned this city into one of the most in demand visitor destinations for business in Europe.
We are calling on you to set out a clear set of dates for a return to conference and business events, in order to allow this critical sector in the economy of Liverpool to begin to plan how it will survive this existential threat to its continued viability.
We also stand in support of the BVEPs latest call for action; that if no start date is made available in the next seven days, the Government must create a significant and sector specific Recovery Fund to help kick-start and rebuild the events industry over the next three years, as has been done with the cultural sector.
We can only write this letter on behalf of Liverpool, but know we reflect the views of cities up and down the country as well as a sector that as a whole is worth £70 billion to the UK economy. All we are looking for is a timeline we can all begin to work to.
We look forward to a swift response and are ready to work alongside you to help resolve this situation and in doing so save thousands of jobs across our city.
Joe Anderson, OBE, Mayor of Liverpool
Max Steinberg, CBE, Chair ACC Liverpool
Marcus Magee, Chair Liverpool Hospitality Association