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Whilst welcoming Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt's acknowledgement of how the biggest event ever staged in Britain has demonstrated Britain's brilliance in staging world class events, Michael Hirst, Chair of the Business Visits & Events Partnership, believes there could be a missed opportunity in recognising how the success of business events held during the Olympics can become a major part of the Games legacy.
In his keynote tourism speech last week, Hunt announced £8m of funding for a marketing campaign targeting Chinese visitors and £2m to boost domestic tourism. New targets were set for overseas visitors to rise from 30 million today to 40 million by 2020. The number of Chinese visitors would be trebled to a target of 500,000 by 2015 with the promise that more work would be done to overcome the visa regime and aviation capacity which currently impede these targets.
"The business events community will welcome this additional support to bring more visitors to Britain, especially if some of it is targeted toward business visitors and event attendees," Hirst commented. "However it is not clear how much of the funding will be allocated specifically to promoting business visits and events."
He continued, "Clearly the "GREAT" campaign is designed to focus primarily on Britain's trade potential and events are included in this programme. However the extra marketing funds going to VisitBritain are unlikely to be allocated to promote business visits as VisitBritain regrettably no longer has a remit for this lucrative tourism sector"
He added that, "The intention was for the industry to work up a closer relationship with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to ensure that the potential of business events to grow the economy, especially in key priority sectors, was fully realised. To that end through the offices of Lord Green, Minister of State for Trade & Industry at the Department of Business, the Partnership has arranged a meeting with Nick Baird, Chief Executive of UKTI for next month to discuss how best to ensure the potential of the sector to boost tourism and trade was realised."
"The Games have clearly demonstrated both the economic and social impacts of major events at a national and local level and their power in selling our national tourism product. Our industry remains one of the clear beneficiaries of the Games through conferences and exhibitions and local community events held during the Olympics and those being attracted in the future because of it," concluded Hirst. "Ministers with tourism and business interests need to underline the role this particular sector has played and will continue to play in showing off Britain as a successful destination to hold international meetings, conferences and trade fairs and prestigious cultural events and festivals."