Diversified Business Communications MD Carsten Holmes has hit out against the Government’s failure to protect Earls Court Exhibition Centre and ensure the future of the events industry in a sharp letter to London Mayor Boris Johnson.
Holmes used the letter to rebuke the Mayor for not supporting the exhibition industry’s need for central London venues and therefore failing to protect the UK’s international events reputation. Retaining Earls Court was vital to the success of the events industry and could provide much-needed jobs and long-term contributions to the economy, he said.
Earls Court and Olympia owner Capital and Counties (CapCo) announced plans to demolish the two Earls Court exhibition centres as part of an ambitious 77-acre redevelopment of the Earls Court Opportunity Area. The estate is jointly owned by CapCo, Transport for London and Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
The AEO has also come out against the closure of Earls Court and announced plans to lobby government to retain the iconic venue.
“Along with the rest of the industry, I am absolutely appalled by the prospect of losing this important venue, our only major international venue in Central London, due to private interests and property speculation,” Holmes stated in the letter. “Yes, it [Earls Court] is in need of modernisation and investment and could do with being redeveloped – but not as housing.
“In other countries, major exhibition and conference venues are seen as a crucial platform for business and a way to showcase products and facilitate business, but in this country, somehow, nobody really seems to care.
“People from outside the UK are incredulous at our general facilities and the lack of vision and planning, and I really feel it is about time we take stock and consider our priorities.”
In a bid to outline the significance of the events industry, Holmes referred to a recent BBC Money programme special which highlighted ‘meeting places’ as one of the top two sectors the UK holds a competitive advantage in alongside financial services.
“The reality is that business people increasingly prefer to do business in other countries with much better conference and exhibition facilities, which, in the UK, are generally considered among the worst of any major international city,” Holmes claimed. “The exception in the UK is, of course, Excel, which rightly I know you are a great supporter of, and it is a fantastic venue for certain types of events. But it doesn’t work for all and is too far from Central London and Heathrow to be considered a viable alternative to a central London venue for many events.”
Rather than one or the other, Holmes said the events industry needed both venues to ensure a healthy future.
“London needs a top international facility in the centre of the capital,” he stated. “It’s a huge issue for our industry and you simply cannot force people to go to a venues they don’t want to go to – they choose another country.
“Most major UK organisers – and yes, our companies are international leaders in this field – now focus on organising trade shows abroad, supporting foreign economies, rather than our own UK economy.”
As well as a request to meet with the mayor, Holmes has sent letters to Hammersmith and Fulham Council and Chelsea and Kensington to express his dismay about the closure of Earls Court.
A masterplan application detailing the 77-acre redevelopment of Earls Court was submitted by CapCo in June and is now subject to the approval process.
Click here to read the actual letter.
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