The Impact of Brexit on Meetings

Travel experts predict uncertainty in the wake of historic UK referendum

On June 23, voters in the United Kingdom made the historic decision to leave the European Union. Although the official separation process will take up to two years, the impact of the move was immediate and the fallout dramatic.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who opposed Brexit, resigned, and the British pound sterling sank to its lowest level since 1985. Scotland, whose voters want to remain in the EU, is now considering seceding from the U.K., and Brexit has sparked others in the 28-member EU bloc—most notably France, the Netherlands and Italy—to contemplate withdrawal from the EU.

Patience Urged

Travel experts urge meeting planners who do business in the U.K. to remain calm, as changes will be gradual.

“There will be a prolonged period of negotiating the U.K.’s exit from the EU, during which time we expect conditions for travelers to remain the same,” says Jo Sully, vice president and general manager of American Express Global Business Travel in Australia and New Zealand.

David Huether, senior vice president of research for the U.S. Travel Association, told Smart Meetings, “I expect that Brexit will affect inbound visitation from the United Kingdom to the United States to some degree this year, but more fully in 2017.”

Michael W. McCormick, executive director and chief operating officer of Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), emphasizes that the association is committed to ensuring that business travelers maintain freedom of movement; travel infrastructure remains strong; and programs that facilitate safe and secure travel continue.

“GBTA and its partners across Europe and in the U.K. will work together to promote and defend the interests of the business travel industry,” he said in a statement.

Impact on Meetings

London & Partners is the destination marketing organization for the international hub. CEO Gordon Innes stresses that London is open for business. He points out that the city recently attracted more than 40,000 attendees to Europe’s largest technology festival, including 21 overseas delegations looking to London as a place to invest. He adds that 40 percent of the world’s top companies have headquarter operations in London, and the city is home to more than 250 international banks—more American banks are based in London than in New York City.

ExCel London, an award-winning international convention center located on a 100-acre site in London Docklands, is a top choice for trade shows and events. It recently hosted more than 15,000 delegates at Salesforce World Tour London 2016.

“There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for the U.K. and London economies in the wake of Britain’s historic decision to leave the EU,” says David Pegler, CEO of ExCel London. “ExCeL London looks forward to playing its part in London’s post-EU success story, to continue hosting world-leading events and to reaping the benefits of a Brexit boost.”

Although recently elected London Mayor Sadiq Khan believes Britain is better off within the EU, he also thinks the country will prosper outside of it. “I want to send a clear message to the British people and to businesses and investors around the world that there is no need to panic,” Khan said. “London will continue to be the successful city it is today.”

International Reaction to Brexit

“We will closely monitor the situations’ developments (e.g., visas, taxes, rates) and share information as it becomes available.”
Matthias Schultze, managing director of German Convention Bureau

“This is a painful choice, and it is deeply regrettable both for the U.K. and Europe.”
Francois Hollande, president of France

“I am very sorry that the result of the referendum is for the U.K. to leave the European Union. Ireland will, of course, remain a member of the European Union. That is profoundly in our national interest.”
Enda Kenny, prime minister of Ireland

“The U.K. and the EU are important strategic partners for Canada with whom we enjoy deep historical ties and common values. We will continue to build relations with both parties as they forge a new relationship.”
Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada

“This result must make all [EU] member states reflect on how to strengthen ourselves more than ever to win back the vigor of the original spirit behind the European project and recover the interest, sympathy and attraction our citizens feel towards it.”
Mariano Rajoy, acting prime minister of Spain

“I am stirred, not shaken. EU must reform, and Denmark will work to reform from within.”
Kristian Jensen, minister for foreign affairs of Denmark

“We are very concerned over the risks to the global economy, and financial and exchange markets.”
Shinzo Abe, prime minister of Japan

“Is Brexit being overhyped? No, it’s a major geopolitical event, as significant as post-9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis.”
Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, the world’s largest political risk consultancy

“The people of the United Kingdom have spoken, and we respect their decision. The U.K. and the EU will remain indispensable partners of the United States, even as they begin negotiating their ongoing relationship to ensure continued stability, security and prosperity.”
Barack Obama, president of the United States


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