EICC unveils new strategy for events - fusing online and onsite

The Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) has launched a “hybrid virtual model” to deliver client conferences as the venue plans for a phased return of business events later this year.

Marshall Dallas says business events can help to reboot the economy. Picture: Stewart Attwood.

The conference centre – located on Edinburgh’s Morrison Street – says its Make It Edinburgh Live offering lets clients run conferences and events entirely online or via a mix of online and in situ.

The launch precedes what chief executive Marshall Dallas believes will be a phased return to smaller-scale business events at the venue later this year.The EICC closed on 18 March in response to the spread of Covid-19 and has since been rescheduling conferences and events with clients for the last quarter of this year and the first half of 2021.

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Dallas said the venue has spoken to its client base, including 100-plus UK and global associations and companies, and found that there is still strong demand for conferences and events at the venue whenever that will be possible.

“In the meantime, which we hope will be the short term, we have launched the hybrid virtual model for holding events as a bridge to that phased-in return. It’s notable that we are seeing this kind of phase-in approach in the business events sector in other countries, including Germany and China, in no small part, in spite of the inherent challenges, because of how big a contributor business events are to national economies.”

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Dallas said that in the UK alone, the business events sector is valued at around £35 billion and while the impact of Covid-19 has “ravaged” the industry in recent months, “we know that business events can be an important driver in helping to reboot the economy going forward”.

The EICC has also been talking to organisations such as VisitScotland, City of Edinburgh Council and the Edinburgh Hotels Association on strategic planning. A common theme has been the need to differentiate business events from what are being described as “large gatherings”.

Dallas said there is a safe way to reintroduce conferences “in a controlled manner, in a sanitised conference venue environment managed by event industry professionals”.

He added: “What is paramount is that we continue to put the health and wellbeing of our people, our delegates and our suppliers first and, as you would expect, our team is continually monitoring the latest government and public health guidelines as we work on an action plan to get the venue back up and running.

“While we realise there are a lot of intangibles still out there when it comes to the impact of Covid-19, we also know we have to have a tangible plan in place so we can get the wheels turning again as we move through the current crisis… hospitality and tourism is a resilient sector made up of resilient people and the more we can collaborate and have a joined-up approach, the better our chances are of coming out of the current crisis in a relatively strong position.”

The EICC noted that coming into 2020, the year of its 25th anniversary, it had a record book of conferences and events taking place. In March, it led an announcement on the go-ahead for the £350 million Haymarket Edinburgh hotel and hotel school development in Edinburgh.

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