Digital minister Matt Hancock has expressed an interest in working more closely with the business events industry in a sign of potentially greater reach of the sector across government.

Mr Hancock – Secretary of State for Digital Culture, Media and Sport – sent a message of support to the Business Visits and Events Partnership saying he is reportedly ‘very interested’ in working with the sector.

BVEP, the industry group, met on Monday of last week (26 Feb) with Michael Ellis MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, after his recent appointment into the role.

Mr Ellis, whose portfolio includes business events, thanked partners and all those working in the industry for their hard work in delivering success for the UK and confirmed his enthusiasm and willingness to offer more support.

Industry representatives impressed upon the Minister the importance of the sector and highlighted issues and opportunities arising from Brexit, calling for a bigger role for government intervention with better links between departments, greater support and a more strategic focus.

Topics raised included international competitiveness and putting in place the correct structures for education, skills and professionalism including bespoke apprenticeships schemes.

Concerns were expressed regarding the impact of local authority cutbacks impacting funding for events in local communities.

The continued role of the GREAT funded Event Support Programme, operated by VisitBritain, was discussed with the importance of the increased participation from the department for International Trade. The Minister acknowledged the importance of soft power support from government ministers and departments in attracting events to Britain and confirmed his willingness to be fully engaged. He evidenced several letters of support that he had already provided.

Opportunities for promoting extended business visits as outlined in VisitBritain’s recent research on trip extensions, were seen as significant ways of adding to the visitor experience and achieving greater spend.

This was also considered as part of the role events can play in extending the season and attracting visitors to all parts of the country. It was noted this is part of the industrial strategy bid which has been made for the visitor economy.

Michael Hirst, Chair of the BVEP, said: “This was a first good meeting with the Minister and important so early in his new role. He got a good all-round flavour from industry representatives of the key issues and responded positively. There is already a strong relationship with his Department and we look forward to building on this.”

At the same time the BVEP has received a message from The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Digital Culture, Media and Sport saying that he is very interested in the sector and looks forward to working with his colleagues to highlight the importance of the sector across government.