Resilience, reopening and reimagining: the UK’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

As I reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m inspired by how the UK events industry responded with resilience and kindness and are now adapting with the highest standards and innovations so events can resume safely soon.
By Kerrin MacPhie, Head of Business Events, VisitBritain


Industry acts of kindness

As the pandemic first took hold, businesses across the UK supported clients through the disruption of postponed and cancelled events. There were also many selfless acts of kindness from the UK events industry as efforts quickly turned to help local communities and the medical fight against COVID-19. Many event caterers donated food to vulnerable people. Housing for key workers was provided by hotels and quickly constructed by events companies. And a number of venues across the UK were rapidly deployed as temporary ‘Nightingale’ hospitals for the National Health Service (NHS).

Staying connected

Although on lockdown, it was important to remain connected. We at VisitBritain worked hard to deliver innovative ways to stay connected, quickly pivoting our MeetGB event to a two-day virtual tradeshow with over 500 international buyers and UK suppliers connecting. Engagement continued with our virtual discoveries series with virtual tours of UK destinations, convention centres and menu tasting inspired by local recipes. Learn about the UK’s innovation and expertise including Oxford University’s rapid research and development for a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as live lectures and virtual events on UK tech and aerospace sectors.

Back to business

The industry is now ready to get back to business and welcomed Government’s recent announcement that business events in England can resume from 1 October. Businesses are working hard behind the scenes to support clients for this return to business.
Over 30,000 tourism and events businesses across the UK are proudly part of the ‘We’re Good To Go’ industry standard, which demonstrates they are adhering to Government and public health guidance, have carried out risk assessments and have the required processes in place. This gives a ring of confidence that the industry is ensuring the highest standard of new safety and operational procedures.

The new normal

From crisis comes innovation and across the UK I’ve seen many new initiatives that show venues are adapting to the new normal. For example:

-    Safety first – ExCeL London is putting safety front and centre with its new S.A.F.E.T.Y framework. It includes ten guiding principles for safely hosting events across the full event cycle, including in-depth team training and onsite briefings.

-    Hybrid ready – events are now embracing the hybrid event model which offers the perfect blend of digital and live audiences, offering greater reach and extended engagement. Many UK venues have long had hybrid capabilities – including ICC Belfast’s hybrid studio with custom graphics, LED wall, in-house production experts and ultra-fast internet so you can stream with confidence. In London and Birmingham, the Institute of Engineering & Technology (IET) has long pioneered new technology. IET Venues continue this legacy with expertise in hybrid events with in-house video and webcasting on their independent broadcasting channel and top-quality AV and video production.

-    Reimagine – ACC Liverpool is helping us rediscover the magic of events, safely. Committed to re-igniting businesses and re-uniting members, ACC Liverpool can safely accommodate 3,000 attendees with 1 metre-plus social distancing. Its detailed ‘A to Z’ of COVID-secure operations allows us to reimagine safe, engaging events again.

‘Reimagine’ is a great thought to finish on. Get in touch with the team at VisitBritain and together we’ll navigate the future and reimagine great events again.

Kerrin MacPhie
Kerrin leads the Business Events team at VisitBritain, the official tourism organisation of the United Kingdom, proudly promoting the country as a leading destination for international business events. Kerrin has been in the business events and associations industries for many years, previously as Sales Director at ACC Liverpool and Head of Convention Bureau at Liverpool Convention Bureau.