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EICC offers virtual option in plans for ‘phased return to business’

A convention centre is offering clients the chance to go virtual as it maps out a route to reopening in the last quarter of 2020.

The Edinburgh International Convention Centre (EICC) has launched a ‘hybrid virtual model’ ahead of an anticipated ‘phased return to smaller-scale events’ later this year.

The ‘Make It Edinburgh Live’ service will allow meeting planners to run conferences and events either entirely online or via a combination of online and onsite.

The venue closed its doors on 18th March in response to the spread of Covid-19 and has been rescheduling conferences for the last quarter of 2020 and the first half of 2021.

CEO Marshall Dallas, left, said: “Following dialogue with our client base, including over one hundred UK and international associations and companies, what we’ve discovered is there is still strong demand for conferences and events taking place at the venue whenever that is going to be possible. In the meantime, which we hope will be the short-term, we have launched the hybrid virtual model for holding events as a bridge to that phased in return.”

Dallas added: “It’s notable that we are seeing this kind of phase-in approach in the business events sector in other countries, including Germany and China, in no small part, despite the inherent challenges, because of how big a contributor business events are to national economies.  In the UK alone, the business events sector is valued at around £35 billion and while the impact of Covid-19 has ravaged the industry over the last couple of months, we know that business events can be an important driver in helping to reboot the economy going forward.”

The EICC has also been engaged with other industry stakeholders across Scotland, including VisitScotland, City of Edinburgh Council and the Edinburgh Hotels Association around strategic planning with a view to separating business events from what are being termed ‘large gatherings’.

Dallas said: “As an industry, we have been highlighting that there is a clear distinction to be made between business events and large gatherings.  In a controlled manner, in a sanitised conference venue environment managed by event industry professionals, we believe there is a safe way to phase conferences back in.  What is paramount is that we continue to put the health and well-being of our people, our delegates and our suppliers first and, as you would expect, our team is continually monitoring the latest government and public health guidelines as we work on an action plan to get the venue back up-and-running.”

Dallas added: “While we realise there are a lot of intangibles still out there when it comes to the impact of Covid-19, we also know we have to have a tangible plan in place so we can get the wheels turning again as we move through the current crisis.  As I’ve said before, hospitality and tourism is a resilient sector made up of resilient people and the more we can collaborate and have a joined-up approach, the better our chances are of coming out of the current crisis in a relatively strong position.”

Coming into 2020, the year of its 25th anniversary, the EICC had a record book of conferences and events taking place and building on 2019 when it contributed local economic impact of over £50 million.  In March, the EICC led an announcement on the go-ahead for a pioneering hotel and hotel school development in Edinburgh.  M&G Real Estate is funding the £350 million Haymarket Edinburgh development which will be developed by QMile Group.  The completed hotel will be operated by the EICC under a franchise agreement with Hyatt Hotels Corporation.