Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP) is calling on the UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to make a clear distinction between ‘organised events’ and ‘mass gatherings.’

The umbrella body, which represents trade and professional organisations, government agencies and other significant influencers in the business visits and events sector, claims exhibition and cultural events can manage attendee flows, track and trace visitors and responds to public health requirements “far more quickly” than other large gatherings could do.

The organisation’s support has led to the launch of a new social media campaign #GetBritainMeeting, to get the UK’s ‘organised events’ industry back on its feet.

Michael Hirst, chair of BVEP, told TheTicketingBusiness that the term ‘mass gathering’ is vague and includes protests, carnivals and other non-ticketed congregations of people.

He said concerts, festivals, conferences and exhibitions are among those to be defined as an ‘organised event.’ Such events require tickets, meaning organisers know who their attendees are, how many of them there are, and can control when and how they arrive and leave.

He said databases and other technologies would allow these events to function while maintaining social distancing measures, such as creating flows at exhibitions and using timed entries.

Hirst told TheTicketingBusiness: “When we talk about the ‘new norm,’ it means apps and other technology provides us with information to track and trace attendees, in addition to knowing in advance whether people have had COVID-19.

“’Mass gathering’ is a World Health Organisation (WHO) term and includes anything and everything. Events such as the Notting Hill Carnival would be considered a mass gathering, but there is no way of knowing who’s attending, controlling who’s attending, and no way of controlling how people are arriving.”

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, Hirst said event organisers have the capacity and technology to handle live events while taking extra measures in matters of hygiene and people management.

However, he acknowledged the need for reduced capacities and how this would impact revenues.

The Meetings Industry Association’s (MIA) latest research has revealed 82% of UK venues could operate with social distancing measures but will require continued government support. The data also highlighted that in order to reopen 46% of venue operators would have to reduce their capacity by half.

As a result, 59% of venues would not break even while 80% expect to lose more than half of their monthly turnover.

The research, which was carried out at the request of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), represents 918 venues and was supplied to the Social Distancing Commission last week.

Hirst has suggested the government reduce planning permission permits within existing structures in order to accommodate people in a larger space. The BVEP has also lobbied for support to provide temporary toilet facilities and structures to allow live events to go ahead with social distancing in mind.

Hirst said: “Meetings and events are an essential part of the economy and their ability to get back to business is crucial.”

Earlier this week, Germany’s national government have agreed that exhibitions are now on the list of activities that are explicitly listed as possible, rather than being classed as mass gatherings, which remain banned until the end of August. The ruling means that tradeshows could run again in principle, with a target date of May 30.

Hirst applauded Germany’s announcement and said he hopes the UK government will follow suit.

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