As we continue to work closely with our colleagues at DCMS, the BVEP and other stakeholders, we wanted to provide you with some updated guidance for the meetings and events sector following the Prime Ministers briefing on Friday and further information provided to us today.

As a result of an increase in the national infection rate, the planned pilot events, which were due to be held to test the proposed guidelines in exhibition and conference centres, have been postponed. This does not currently affect the current intended date for reopening of conference and exhibition venues from the 1st October, and we will continue to push for the pilots to be held as soon as practical and for the proposed reopening date to be maintained. 

We are informed that the ability of venues permitted to open from the 17th July and hold meetings of up to 30 persons is not affected by the newly announced measures, nor is the wearing of face masks at these meetings. However, unfortunately the permission for weddings for up to 30 guests to be held indoors, has been delayed until at least 15th August. The position of being able to show round groups of visitors for future bookings to conference and exhibition centres is currently being checked with DCMS.

In summary;

  1. Exhibition and Conference centres that have small, separate and directly accessible meeting facilities as part of the venue, may be used to host business meetings and events of up to 30 people, if social distancing can be maintained, groups can be kept separate, and the venue can demonstrate it has followed the COVID-19 guidance. 
  2. If any venue has several separate and directly accessible meeting facilities as part of the site these may be used to host business meetings and events of up to 30 people if social distancing can be maintained, groups can be kept separate, and the venue can demonstrate it has followed the COVID-19 guidance.  
  3. Exhibition Centres or Conference Venue must remain closed by law until at least the 15th August for the purpose of marketing or pre-planning.  
  4. Any permitted venue can host a business meeting of up to 30 people, following COVID-Secure guidelines.  
  5. Basic catering can be provided at meetings and events, following the COVID-19 guidance for bars, pubs and takeaway services. However, it is advised not to hold extended sit down meals for large groups. The UKHospitality guidance may also be useful; it recommends grab and go and pre-packed food rather than buffet.  
  6. Banqueting and private dining events should not currently take place in any venue. If a banqueting venue is able to operate as a restaurant (following the relevant BEIS guidance, adhering to rules on social distancing, keeping household groups/bubbles separate, etc) this would be allowed. The dining provision for groups of up to 30 would have applied to weddings only, more widely we advise against extended sit down meals for large groups. Allowing wedding receptions of up to 30 will be kept under review (although will not be before 15 August). BEIS has developed guidance which is currently going through the government approvals process and will be published as soon as possible.  
  7. Receptions, award ceremonies, examinations, filming, fashion shows, product launches, team building exercises will all need to wait until restrictions on business events are lifted (1 October, if public health assessments allow). They will need to carry out risk assessments in line with Visitor Economy and AEO guidance, and the pilots (when they take place) will assess whether that guidance is sufficient or needs updating in any way. Venues may also need to consider mitigations depending on specific aspects of their events (e.g. performing arts guidance on singing/dancing if relevant). 
  8. The guidance states that events should operate at a capacity allowing for compliance with social distancing of 2m, or 1m with mitigations. This should be the fundamental principle. It notes that for conferences and events venues should consider social distancing approximately equivalent to a density of 10㎡ per person, given the additional risks of large groups interacting in this specific environment. The pilots (when they take place) will assess the guidance and whether the mitigations suggested are appropriate/sufficient. 
  9. Academic venues (Universities and Colleges) can use their lecture theatres and classrooms for external meetings of up to 30 people and as above, separate and directly accessible meeting facilities can be used as long as groups are kept separate and all other guidance is followed.

Please note that this updated guidance currently relates to England only, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland publishing their own guidance.