The Meetings Industry Association’s (mia) Chief Executive Jane Longhurst urges the sector to proceed with caution and adhere to non-obligatory advice to reassure risk-averse bookers and safeguard customers and employees.

For many venues, event planners and suppliers serving our sector there was rightly a degree of jubilation on ‘freedom day’ on 19th July. However, as restrictions and regulations continue to challenge the global economy for the foreseeable, we are acutely aware of the ongoing barriers and pressures that many will continue to face – whether that’s bookings, staffing, logistics or other challenges.

As a sector that prides itself on its service, we know that these organisations will be keen to lead the way in how meeting and event spaces are controlled, and risks are mitigated. While this may be the case, at the same time we must accept that without mandatory government guidance there naturally will be differences in service standards and the implementation of COVID-secure protocols across different venues and organisations.

We have already made huge positive steps to demonstrate enhanced hygiene and infection control measures through the introduction of AIM Secure accreditation, but as the prime minister has urged, we all need to proceed with caution, and more so, consistency. We have all come so far since the beginning of the pandemic, sacrificing business and much more to adhere to safety restrictions and help prevent the spread of infection, and now we are all responsible for demonstrating the rigorous safety standards that we have been implementing throughout the last 18 months to support our relentless appeals for the sector’s reopening.

As part of our continued work championing best practice and to drive consistency across the sector, we are therefore encouraging organisations to follow the latest government guidance, particularly where greater safety measures can be implemented despite no longer being required by law – such as encouraging the use of face coverings. The last 18 months have no doubt been highly challenging for employers, employees and industry peers, and as the sector slowly begins to find its feet during this turbulent, transitional period, we remain committed to provide as much support as possible.

From our research we understand that event budgets and delegate numbers are not expected to return to pre-COVID levels until beyond 2023, however knowing our sector’s ability to adapt, disrupt and innovate provides me with optimism that we can ignite the sector’s recovery at a faster pace than these forecasts.

In order to facilitate this, we will continue to provide any tools and resources that can benefit the sector and having developed our 2021 conference programme, I am excited to inspire the sector with strategies for stabilisation and diversification in November. Fuelling the next chapter of business meetings and events, the Ignite conference has been carefully curated to stimulate the sectors recovery and will deliver thought-provoking topics to equip event professionals with foresight into the impending revolution of events.