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Conferences called off

Gatherings of 500 face ban as events fall victim to virus fears

Malcolm Roughead

Malcolm Roughead: decision was not taken lightly

UPDATE 13 MARCH: Events involving more than 500 people will be banned from next week under Scottish government advice.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said this was to free up emergency services, including police and ambulance crews, to deal with coronavirus.

She said it was not necessary to close schools and universities yet, but added that would remain under review.

There have now been 60 cases confirmed in Scotland, with Lothian having 11, the highest number.

Ms Sturgeon said the scientific advice suggested that cancelling mass gatherings “will not in itself have a significant impact on reducing the spread of the virus”.

The primary reason for the move was to reduce pressure on frontline workers.

Coronavirus concerns are already causing more events to be called off with conferences in Scotland and awards ceremonies becoming the latest casualties.

The Scottish Conservatives have announced that the party’s spring conference has been postponed. The event was due to take place in Perth in mid-May, but will now be moved to later in the year.

Two thousand delegates were expected to attend the VisitScotland Expo due to take place on 1 and 2 April at P&J Live in Aberdeen, but the event has been cancelled.

The Scottish Legal Awards due to be held in Glasgow next week has been called off and a new date will be set.

The Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards, scheduled for May, are being postponed until 10 September.

DataFest’s Data Summit planned for 19-20 March at the Edinburgh Assembly Rooms has been cancelled. British astronaut Tim Peake was to be the keynote speaker at the event.

Others called off include: the Scottish Golf Show from 27-29 March at the Scottish Events Campus in Glasgow; Scottish Hair & Beauty Show scheduled for 19 and 20 April at the SEC in Glasgow; the SCDI Forum which was due to take place on 6 and 7 May is likely to be postponed until September; Trove’s ‘Heritage Redefined’ inaugural event at the Sheraton in Edinburgh on 19 March will be re-scheduled; the Skills for Tomorrow Edinburgh event organised by BT and Google, due to take place on Friday morning in Queen Street, will become a virtual event.

The organisers of VisitScotland Expo said the decision to cancel was due to a “significant number of cancellations caused by Coronavirus”.

It will be a big blow to the new facility in Aberdeen which has invested heavily in building a share of the conference market.

Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said:  “As a major international event, with over 2,000 attendees from around 30 countries, this decision was not taken lightly, as Expo was on course to be a great success at a brand new and exciting venue, so we are disappointed for all the buyers, exhibitors and staff.

Aberdeen Conference Centre

The Aberdeen conference centre is building momentum

“We have been monitoring the situation for some time but it is clear that we are already seeing significant cancellations from key countries, as well as concerned enquiries about the event and hesitancy from attendees to travel. 

“With the number of cases of Coronavirus increasing across the world, we did not want to contribute to its potential spread across Scotland and beyond.  

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EICC hotel scheme and training academy approved

“We will continue to connect buyers and the tourism industry and are currently developing ideas about how we can use technology and digital channels to make those connections – but we won’t be able to physically run the event this year. 

“We are already looking at how we can further support the tourism industry going forward and will continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis.  

“We will make an announcement regarding next year’s Expo in the near future.”

The organisers of the Scottish Legal Awards, which were to be held on 19 March, said: “While government advice on the spread of the Coronavirus continues to allow events of this nature to go ahead and although the number of cases in Scotland is low, we are aware that some guests are concerned about travelling and in some cases, businesses are restricting attendance at large scale events. 

Scottisj Legal Awards

“The Scottish Legal Awards is a fantastic celebration of our legal industry and it is only fair to everyone who has made it to the finals this year that we bring everyone together when the mood for celebration returns.  

“We will reschedule this event for early summer and will be in touch as soon as a new date is confirmed.”

Another event due to take place at the Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh on the same night has also been postponed.

Trove’s ‘Heritage Redefined’ inaugural event will be re-scheduled. 

A statement from the organisers said:” “Having spoken to our sponsors and taken advice from the relevant authorities, we feel that gathering together over 200 people in a luxury space over a three hour period would be irresponsible given the current spread of the coronavirus. 

“We were greatly looking forward to meeting each one of you at what was shaping up to be a terrific event. Demand to attend had far outstripped supply and we were delighted with the support and willingness of our sponsors to create something genuinely memorable. 

“Please rest assured that this is a postponement, not a cancellation. We will look to reschedule as soon as it is responsible and practical to do so.”

However, there is some difference of opinion, with some organisers insisting that events should continue.

The three-day Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association conference is under way at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre which has a 950-strong delegate list.

Scotland’s annual showcase for business event professionals EVENTIT was still due to go ahead next week as planned – though it may now be in doubt.

It’s our job to highlight that Scottish events are very much open for business and going ahead

Judith Wilson, EVENTIT

EVENTIT is scheduled for the same day as the postponed Legal Awards and Trove events – 19 March – at the EICC, showcasing over 80 exhibitors.

Judith Wilson, Director of EVENTIT, said: “Event professionals across Scotland are understandably anxious about the potential of event cancellations, however as leading event professionals, it’s our job to highlight that Scottish events are very much open for business and going ahead. 

“With the Scottish events and festival industry worth an estimated £3.5 billion per year to the Scottish economy, it’s crucial that we show our true value by collaborating with and supporting events across the country during this unsteady time.

“With a recent increase in attendee bookings and the ongoing support from our long-standing partners and exhibitors, we are hugely confident in producing a high-quality event for many industry professionals across Scotland and the UK.”

Rangers will play Bayer Leverkusen tonight in front of a packed house of 50,000 supporters at Ibrox.

See also: Markets suffered another bloodbath as Donald Trump announced a travel ban on Europe

Hotel scheme approved

The EICC has been given the go-ahead for a pioneering hotel and hotel school development in Edinburgh. 

It will operate the new hotel being developed by M&G Real Estate and QMile Group at the £350 million Haymarket Edinburgh development.  Work has started on site and the completed hotel will be operated by EICC under a franchise agreement with Hyatt Hotels Corporation.

The 362 bedroom, 4 star hotel will address conference demand issues for the EICC – which has hosted almost 1.5 million delegates at the conference centre venue since opening in 1995 – while the hotel school will address recruitment challenges faced by the hospitality industry in Scotland. 

Together, the hotel and hotel school are expected to provide significant job creation and economic benefit for the city.  

The EICC commissioned Colliers International’s hotel consultancy, to examine a series of four-star options.  The Colliers report indicated that future demand for hotel accommodation in the Edinburgh market, which already has the highest occupancy rates in the UK outside London, remains very positive.

As an integral part of the hotel development is a hotel school and training academy that will offer a career path for students and trainees while providing a pipeline of qualified people for Scotland’s leisure and tourism industry. 

The hotel school will build close relationships with organisations including the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Edinburgh Hotels Association, British Hospitality Association, VisitScotland, Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland to ensure that the training offered matches the needs and recruitment challenges of the industry.  

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