The meetings and conference sector is unsettled and feeling the immediate impact of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, according to a member survey by the Meetings Industry Association (mia).

In the 33 days since the BREXIT result was announced, 92% of respondents noted levels of enquires have either stood still or declined and only 8% have witnessed an increase.

In the unprecedented period of uncertainty that has seen numerous government ministers resign, over two-thirds of respondents (68%) felt there will be a slowdown in capital investment by corporates and overseas investors and have starting implementing a range of diversification and cost-savings strategies to soften the impact.

Over half (54%) say they are now looking at ways to diversify and are contemplating other areas of their businesses to optimize revenue and profit where possible, while one in two (50%) have frozen non-essential spend. One in five (20%) have ceased both project capital expenditure and stopped recruitment as part of their cost-saving measures.

Meanwhile, over half of respondents (55%) believe the current economic uncertainty will have an impact on the sector’s cost margins and feel high pressure will now be placed on cancellation terms until agreements are in place with the EU and the market regains confidence. In the interim, nearly one in two respondents (47%) believe the sector will witness a drop in EU-based delegates.

However, in a sector that is heavily reliant on European hospitality staff, only 20% believe BREXIT will have an effect on their future recruitment strategies with only 23% believing the result will cause a reduction in the number of non-UK front of house staff being employed.

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the mia, says: “We know from our own EU debate in May that the majority of the sector were voting to remain in the European Union so were shocked by the eventual outcome. Talking to our members there is currently a real sense of low confidence – particularly because no contingency plans were put in place for a leave result. Hopefully now Theresa May’s appointment will have a steadying effect and the markets will improve.

“However, as an industry I think in the short-term we will continue to experience a period of uncertainty with businesses being nervous. Yet, the exit is expected to take two years plus and we are in real danger of talking ourselves into another recession. Instead we need to be championing greater incentives for international corporations to hold meetings and conferences in the UK and wider initiatives to ensure freedom of movement and trade within the European Union remains.”

Longhurst added: “The mia is immediately increasing its range of events and business initiatives to ensure all members are best equipped to maximise business opportunities and minimise the potential impact of BREXIT.”

A full copy of the research results can be downloaded here.

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