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UK convention centres welcome autumn reopening date

Venue managers across the UK have welcomed the government’s announcement that business events will resume from autumn, subject to the satisfactory completion of pilot events.

Bob Prattey, chief executive of The ACC Liverpool Group, operators of ACC Liverpool, Exhibition Centre Liverpool and M&S Bank Arena, said: “Our teams have been working behind the scenes to ensure that we are able to offer a safe environment for bringing organised events and large numbers of delegates back together again.

“Our campus has been operational throughout this time – working as a distribution centre for Liverpool City Council – therefore all social distancing protocols and management have already become second nature to our teams.

“While we understand the restart is subject to the successful completion of pilot events – and events will look somewhat different to what we have previously been used to – we welcome the challenges this new landscape will bring.”

The business events sector contributes £3.3bn to Liverpool’s economy every year, 48 per cent of business rates, and supports 38,000 jobs.  The conference and events sector as a whole is worth £70 billion to the UK economy.

Prattey added: “We would like to reassure all visitors that we are prepared and very much looking forward to opening our doors again as soon as we are able to do so.”

One of the UK’s biggest exhibition venues and home to one of the largest Nightingale Hospitals, EXCEL London, has confirmed plans to reopen on October 1, with 10 per cent of the building still being used as NHS equipment storage.

CEO James Rees said: “Having played a full role in supporting the NHS, providing all of our facilities for the Nightingale Hospital, we are now looking forward to playing an equally active role in the nation’s economic recovery.

“The vast majority of the venue (90 per cent) has been restored to its original state, with the remaining space secured as equipment storage for NHS Nightingale.

“This ongoing support will not impact the normal operation of our venue and we look forward to hosting safe, secure, and successful business events and conferences from 1st October onwards.”

ExCeL has been working with the AEV (Association of Event Venues) to develop the All Secure Standard, an industry wide benchmark to enable the safe return of organised events.

In addition, the venue has developed its own set of safety principles to help guide customers through the event planning process, including new social distancing measures, cleaning regimes, F&B protocols and training.

Meanwhile the NEC in Birmingham has confirmed that the NHS Nightingale emergency hospital occupying the venue is being decommissioned in time for an October 1- restart.

The field hospital has been in hibernation since May and did not receive a single patient, but it will continue to support the NHS with the creation of a small non-Covid standby facility until March 2021. Management is keen to stress that the smaller facility will not affect the re-opening for event business.

The UK government has announced that conferences and exhibitions would be permitted in England from 1 October 2020.

The NEC issued the following statement: “After an immensely challenging period, this is the news we’ve all been waiting for and I believe it’s the first step for our industry on the path towards recovery. Clearly there will be challenges ahead and we are certainly not out of the woods just yet, but the fact that we can all start to plan with a clear go live date is great news.”

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