London’s events industry is “absolutely critical” to the economic health of the city, deputy mayor for business, Rajesh Agrawal (pictured), has told Exhibition News.
In an exclusive interview, the deputy mayor noted that events across all disciplines are worth £23bn to London annually, accounting for approximately a third of the overall £70bn value of the industry to the wider UK.
“London is a huge centre for events, whether it is business, leisure, tourism, sporting or cultural. The sector supports more than 1,500 venues and about 140,000 hotel rooms [in the capital],” deputy mayor Agrawal said.
The deputy mayor made it clear that business events in particular have a significant impact on the wider economy. “They help create economic growth, showcase business opportunities, deliver trade transactions and provide a forum for up-skilling,” he added.
“I’m a big fan of these events and last year we saw diverse events such as One Young World, which is the global youth leadership summit, I visited Sibos, which is one of the top financial services events.”
The deputy mayor for business also acknowledged the challenge currently faced by the events industry. “I know the industry, along with London as a whole will recover,” he added.
Answering our question on whether London is doing enough to encourage more sector-focused events, deputy mayor Agrawal pointed to London Tech Week as a leading example, and also stated that providing environments for SMEs to meet and network was important.
“It [London Tech Week] has massive opportunities for SMEs to engage with prospective customers, partners and investors, and helping them to build their networks and drive growth,” he said. “I’m a big fan of networking, meeting people and coming together. One of the greatest strengths of London is its diversity, you get people from around the world who come and make the city their home. Our economy is very diverse, so no matter what sector you are in there’s an opportunity for SMEs to network.”
He added: “We have a lot of sector-focused events in London, look at Fashion Week or the Design Festival, a huge number of these are important events for London’s calendar. They attract delegates from around the world, so we need to continue to learn how to adapt new technology and to amplify our reach.”
Addressing the issues surrounding Brexit, the deputy mayor noted that a ‘No Deal’ Brexit would be “devasting” for the events industry, which has already seen 126,000 event jobs lost nationwide, with more likely to follow once the furlough scheme ends on 31 October.
He added that the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has continued to push central Government to extend financial support measures.
When asked about SME plans for growth in the city, the deputy mayor said that some sectors were performing well, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. “One of the great things about London is its ecosystem of coming together, and events play a very important role,” he said.
“Look at the London Growth Hub, for example. We are doing events already to help businesses erupt to become more resilient and prepare for Brexit. There are masterclasses going on, which teach how to adapt business and use technology to bring a new reality.”
However, the deputy mayor was keen to stress that although events play a very important role for businesses, health comes “first and foremost”, and that the first priority should be to control the virus.
Image: Greater London Authority