Letter from the BVEP Chair Simon Hughes - December 2020

As this torrid year stumbles to a chaotic close, drafting a traditional festive message presents something of a challenge. Where to begin? Applaud our mastery of virtual meeting technology – no, you’re on mute. You’re still on mute! Unmute please! Give me strength. Then there has been what I have fondly called the BLQ or the Bad Language Quota. As we lurched from vague but bad bat news in China to ski holiday spreading and then total lockdown, I noticed that with each déjà vu month that passed the amount of bad language being used on virtual meeting started to creep up. Wrong kind of quota, with no tariffs involved, but massive queues already forming on the M20. Marvellous.

We have also all been far too busy. People look tired. The constant challenge of change, of trying to unpack the latest guidance, coupled with the fact that Covid 19 has proven to be the most destructive disruptor many of us have ever seen – it has been relentless and wearing. Then there has been the human cost – the lives lost, the careers shattered, businesses that have never needed help not getting it when they did and falling by the wayside. The mental health and well being legacy will be profound. All in all saying goodbye to 2020 can’t come soon enough for most of us. We have hated it but we’ll never forget it.

Nor should we forget the good things that came out of it. In an industry full of creative and talented problem solvers we have seen people pivot to offer new services, new ways of working and a really annoying lexicon of new words and phrases in daily use. Like pivot. Or working at pace. If it’s going anywhere near Treasury it has to be evidenced based. I’m still in my pyjamas but I’ve got 36 surveys to complete today. The deadline? Yesterday of course.

The main focus of our work this year has been the incredible efforts made by our working group charged with Advocacy and Government relations, led by our former Chair Michael Hirst OBE. Recent rumours that he might be made a saint ground to a halt when Italy banned travel from the UK. With Chris Skeith and Jane Longhurst as his close and constant companions, the AEO and MIA helped produce Covid-19 secure guidance for the Visitor Economy team at DCMS.

In tandem the EIF produced guidance for the outdoor sector, great work led by Jim Winship and supported by the many outdoor associations now fighting for additional support over the next 6 months. I’m sure that they would all like us to pay credit to the unflagging efforts that have been made by the DCMS teams to ensure that our case has been put as firmly as possible, as frequently as required. We remain totally committed to making those conversations count.

The immediate task for the New Year will be ensuring that the business visits and events sector develops a recovery plan that aligns with the broader asks being made by tourism, but with a more specific BVEP focus. We also have a newly invigorated APPG in play, so briefing them on where we are now will also feature in the short term. Thanks are due to the support provided by Robert Wright and his team at Davies Tanner for both the APPG for Events and the communications support provided to the BVEP – it is much appreciated.

Finally thanks are due to all of our partners too - your support and willingness to share information and advice makes the whole partnership a really essential part of the complex eco-system that we operate in. Never before have we been tested so thoroughly and our ability to respond in a positive manner is very much founded on the expertise and solidarity that the BVEP has brought to the broader campaigns launched across the industry. I’m particularly pleased with the response to the coalition created in One Industry One Voice and the impact that this has had in re-defining our contribution to the UK economy.

I look forward to launching a revised programme of meetings in 2021, so please watch out for diary dates next month. In the meantime, however you are now planning to spend Christmas, I hope that you all have a very peaceful, healthy and safe break over the festive season. Happy Christmas and all best wishes for the New Year.

Kindest regards,
Simon Hughes
Chair BVEP