A Planner’s Guide to Brexit
After months of contentious politicking, the people of the United Kingdom voted June 23rd to leave the European Union, a development popularly known as Brexit. The 52%-48% vote stunned many observers.
The morning after the vote, commentators began to sort out the ramifications of the unexpected outcome, which are likely to be widespread and complicated. U.S. planners of international meetings and incentive programs bringing groups to the U.K., Ireland and other of the 27 countries remaining in the E.U. will, no doubt, be affected as well. It’s likely to be awhile, however, until the full impact of the decision is clear. In the meantime, the following 10 pointers should prove helpful:
- Two-year window. In what’s known as Article 50, Britain’s divorce from the E.U. will take up to two years to fully take effect. That said, there will be uncertainty starting now.
- Necessary perspective. As veteran planners well know, uncertainty can be difficult to manage in and of itself. Clearly, events that are already planned and booked will go forward.
- Err on the side of caution. Events in the discussion or early-planning stage, on the other hand, are a different story. This period is going to be especially trying for planners of financial industry events, who can expect a high degree of hand wringing on the part of their internal clients or outside accounts. London has been the center of euro-based trading for a number of years and that highly profitable activity is now expected to transfer to Frankfort or Paris. With profits slashed, event budgets are likely to be cut as well.
- A counter trend. As in any emergency scenario, there may also be a spike in the number of last-minute, relatively small and senior-level meetings planners will be asked to arrange in London, Brussels and other E.U. capitals. C-suite executives will need to create contingency plans as the fallout of the Brexit vote continues.
- VIP considerations. As with senior-level events generally, privacy and discretion will be paramount in arranging these last-minute planning sessions. Planners will need to fall back on their established relationships as budgets take second place in terms of accommodations and scheduling issues. Remember VIPs remain VIPs.
- The immigration piece. In recent years, U.K. hotels and restaurants have been staffed to a large degree by workers from the E.U. eager to benefit from the U.K.’s strong hospitality industry. As these workers are likely to return to their home countries, service standards in the U.K. may not be at the same high level they have been, at least in the short term.
- Currency considerations. In the immediate aftermath of Brexit, the usually strong British pound fell to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar since 1985. No doubt, the pound sterling is likely to bounce back in the days and weeks ahead. Long-term, however, who can say? For value conscious planners, the U.K. as a destination may now become more within their reach than it has been.
- Negotiating advantage. Depending on how the post-Brexit economy plays out in the U.K. going forward, planners may find themselves in an advantageous position in terms of negotiating hotel rates, airfares, DMC changes and other costs. Planners will need to focus more closely on the RFP process going forward when it comes to the U.K. as a destination vis-à-vis other E.U. destinations.
- Speculation on Scotland and Northern Ireland. No sooner had the final Brexit vote been counted than speculation began that Scotland and Northern Ireland might begin to make political moves to seek independence from the U.K. and join the E.U. in their own name. Planners would be wise to keep these developments on their radar screen.
- England is still England. Big Ben. Buckingham Palace. Stonehenge. Cambridge. Cardiff. The Lake District. The list of group-friendly venues in England and Wales goes on and on. Culturally and in terms of a shared language and history, there’s a reason Downton Abbey was more popular in the U.S. than in the U.K. Brexit or no Brexit, none of that has changed. So veteran planners know better than to dismiss the U.K. as a group destination anytime soon.
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