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Archive for the ‘Hot Topics’ Category

UK at disadvantage in bidding for international events

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

According to a report from the Business Visits & Events Partnership (BVEP), Britain needs more government support when bidding to host international business events.

The report investigated ’subvention’ – the grants and financial subsidies offered by a country’s government – around the world and found that, when bidding for events, UK cities are losing out to destinations such as Cape Town, Barcelona and Copenhagen. Many of these foreign cities provide free transport, co-ordinated hotel rates and civic receptions.

The report says, “It is clear from our research that the UK and UK destinations are at a competitive disadvantage when bidding for major international conferences and related events. Competition from new and emerging destinations, as well as from existing key competitors, will only increase in the years ahead.”

The report found that 83% of overseas destinations offered receptions for delegates hosted by officials, whereas only 35% of UK destinations did the same. An impressive 50% of overseas destinations make available a contribution to event marketing, whereas this was possible in only 17% of UK destinations. In addition, 50% of overseas destinations would provide a direct subsidy for an international event or conference, compared to just 23% at home.

The BVEP report calls for a “more effective, joined-up approach” in recognition of the long-term importance of conferences and events to the UK economy. As well as providing a boost to the business events sector, it is worth noting that up to 40% of business visitors to the UK can be expected to return with their families for leisure.

Diversified boss urges Boris to save Earls Court

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Carsten Holm, Managing Director of Diversified Business Communications UK, has written an open letter to London Mayor, Boris Johnson, urging him to get behind Earls Court and help fight plans for it to be developed into housing, stating that it is “not too late”.

In the letter, dated 6 October, Holm raises “serious concerns” about the future of Earls Court and states that he is “absolutely appalled” by the prospect of losing “this important venue”.

Capital and Counties (Capco), owner of the site, is planning to bulldoze the exhibition facility and commence construction of both commercial and residential property as early as the end of 2012. The Association of Event Organisers (AEO) has been lobbying the government to prevent the redevelopment, or at least ensure that it includes a ‘new’ Earls Court exhibition centre.

The full text of the letter reads as follows:

“Dear Mr Johnson,

I am writing this email as the managing director of Diversified Business Communications UK, an international organiser of trade exhibitions, and I want to raise my serious concerns about the likely redevelopment of Earls Court exhibition centre. 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. Yes, it 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.

I recall a BBC Money Programme Special, broadcast a couple of months ago and presented by Evan Davies, in which Mr Davies posed the question of where, in this new age of outsourcing and increasingly little manufacturing, the jobs will be found in the future and to consider in which areas we are world leaders with competitive advantage. The two top sectors were ‘financial services’ (no surprise there) and as a ‘meeting place for the world’, where he considered us to be particularly well placed, due to language, airports, our trading heritage and London as a city. Yet 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 amongst the worst of any major international city.

Most major international cities have learned from the German model, where state-of-the-art exhibition centres form a fundamental part of the infrastructure of the cities and support commerce, and just look how successful Germany is today. They provide the single most important facility to promote a country’s products to the wider world, they are a source of pride, they generate significant income and employment, and they provide a place for people from around the world to do business. Yet here nobody seems to care, and those that should seem to be trying to make life for the commercial world, that powers the UK economy, as difficult as possible. It’s a bit like asking us to run a rail network without providing the stations.

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. It is not a question of one or the other but that both have a place and that London needs a top international facility in the centre of the capital. It’s a huge issue for our industry and you simply cannot force people to go to venues they don’t want to go to – they choose another country.

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. We in the UK are world leaders as trade show organisers and we have the demand, yet we have the worst facilities of any major modern city. As a result, 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. We can afford to spend billions on an Olympic Games, which nobody seems interested in, yet, where we still have an opportunity to not just maintain but create something which will have a positive long term impact on the UK economy, we turn a blind eye, as if supporting the real world and encouraging commerce in the UK, is just a little too dirty to get involved with. I can’t imagine any other major economy taking the same stance. It is extremely depressing and reminds me of how we treated our motor industry.

I would very much welcome the opportunity to meet you in person to explain how other countries treat this important industry, to show images of their facilities and to discuss why we quite simply, for the sake of our nation, can’t allow this to happen.

It’s not too late and I appreciate your understanding of what lies before us. Please, as someone so passionate about changing our priorities and focusing on the long term, I urge you and your party to get involved and help to fight for this important cause.

Thank you. I have sent letters to Hammersmith & Fulham Council and Chelsea & Kensington and I have also communicated my concerns to Mr Cameron.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,
Carsten Holm
Managing director, Diversified Business Communications UK”

The Carrier Carrier Company clocks up 10 years

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

We are celebrating ten years of successful trading this November.

Said Nigel Scott, Sales & Marketing Manager for the firm, “The time has certainly flown by, but it’s been a great business to be involved in. We took our very first order – for the PR firm, Grayling – in November 2001. Over the years,” continued Mr Scott, “we’ve supplied carrier bags to some of the biggest global brands including Coca-Cola, Toyota, the BBC, Moet, Shell, Disney and HSBC.”

Over the last 10 years our range of custom-printed bags has expanded to include laminated paper bags, bottle bags, twisted paper handle (kraft) paper, polythene, cotton, canvas and non-woven material. We specialise in meeting urgent orders, offering lead-times from just five working days. Says Nigel Scott, “We’re very proud of our reputation for providing exceptional service. This is why many of our clients turn to us time and time again to meet their exhibition or promotional carrier bag needs.”

We are now looking forward to the next 10 years.

AEO hits back at Boris over Tube cuts

Friday, October 7th, 2011

The CEO of the Association of Event Organisers, Karim Halwagi, has written to Boris Johnson in response to the London Mayor’s announcement of plans to axe Tube services to Kensington Olympia on weekdays.

Part of the overhaul of the District Line, which comes into effect in December, the move has left event managers fuming amid fears that East London is receiving preferential treatment over West London in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics.

Currently, the District Line transports 73 per cent of Olympia’s visitors from Earl’s Court to the venue, amounting to some 803,000 people a year. Mr Halwagi claims the service change will seriously undermine the exhibition and events industry in West London. His voice echoes general concern in the industry that, without the transport link, both event management and exhibition visitors might stay away.

Summing up, Mr Halwagi stated, “We are very angry and don’t feel that Boris Johnson has given the issue the proper consideration it merits.”

Cameron warns retailers over carrier bags

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has warned retailers to cut the number of plastic bags that they hand out or face new legislation. Although he praised various programmes aimed at reducing the number of bags from retailers in recent years, he also expressed disappointment that some valuable work had been undone in the past year. This fact was highlighted in a recent Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) report, which showed that the number of plastic bags handed out in the UK in 2010 had increased by 6% over the previous year. Mr Cameron said, “That’s unacceptable and we need to do better. I want to see the numbers going in the right direction again.”

He warned that the government might be forced to follow the lead of Eire and Wales, which have introduced a carrier bag levy to tackle the problem. Shoppers in Wales are just getting used to a charge of at least 5p for single use bags, introduced on 1 October.

“I know that retailers want to do better too but if they don’t I will be asking them to explain why not,” said Mr Cameron. “They also need to know that the government has options at its disposal – including legislating as other countries have done. We will continue to look carefully at all options in order to make sure that we further reduce the use of single use plastic bags.”

The Carrier Bag Consortium (CBC) has condemned Mr Cameron’s threats, with a spokesman saying, “In the face of massive economic pressures it is a great shame that the Prime Minister is suggesting taxing the ordinary shopper, particularly when this flies in the face of the evidence from his own Environment Agency, which proves that the lightweight plastic bag is the best environmental choice if re-used – as it is by 76% of households – or recycled.” The CBC added that, despite the small recent increase in bag usage the UK, voluntary agreement has still reduced bag consumption by more than 40%.

Winnipeg’s recycling off to a flying start!

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Many people reuse their carrier bags in inventive ways – as kitchen bin liners, somewhere to put a wet swimsuit after a dip and, of course, for collecting the inevitable when taking Fido for walkies. The ‘Take Pride Winnipeg!’ campaign takes the prize for inventiveness, however, with its recently launched programme that encourages students to collect plastic bags plastic bags for recycling into frisbees.

Dubbed ‘Bag Up Manitoba’ – after the province in which Winnipeg is located – the campaign will run during October at primary schools throughout the area. When originally launched in 2008, the programme included only schools in Winnipeg but the goal this year is to collect half a million plastic bags from 150 schools. ‘Take Pride Winnipeg!’ – a non-profit organisation committed to inspiring civic pride, raising public awareness and promoting citizen responsibility to make the city cleaner and more beautiful – is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Olympia tube service cut

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Transport for London (TfL) has decided to go ahead with its plans to cut underground services to Olympia. Following a public consultation, TfL will implement the withdrawal of weekday tube services to Kensington Olympia in December. The organisation claims that almost 80% of people were in favour of the change. The Olympia tube service will continue to operate at weekends, as well as for major weekday events at the Olympia exhibition centre.

Commenting on the decision, Managing Director of the Earls Court & Olympia (EC&O) group, Nigel Nathan, said he was confident that Olympia remains the best-connected exhibition venue in London. The EC&O group had opposed the service cuts, being supported by the Association of Event Organisers (AEO) and members of the local community. Former CEO of the AEO, Austin Hawkins, had previously warned that the service changes could “kill the events business there”.

TfL claims that the new timetable will “reduce delays” and bag “capacity for an additional 4,000 passengers on the Wimbledon branch every weekday morning”; the carrier will provide five extra trains to operate on the Wimbledon branch during the morning peak.

Mr Nathan said, “We are satisfied that Transport for London has acknowledged our concerns and confirmed that London Underground will provide a number of measures to mitigate any impact on Olympia, including a two train per hour shuttle service between High Street Kensington and Olympia via Earls Court when events at Olympia attract sufficient demand.” Apparently, London Underground has also committed to working with EC&O to ensure that Olympia visitors receive better information via the Journey Planner, station announcements and signage.

A taxing problem

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

The debate goes on as to whether it’s a good idea to place a tax on plastic carrier bags. Evidence seems to show that the volume of plastic carrier bags might fall when they are taxed, but that consumption of alternatives increases. According to the USA’s Packaging and Business Films Association, the result is that limited resources are consumed more quickly and more material ends up in landfill sites.

A bag tax is levied in a number of American states and there has been considerable research on the environmental effects, with many studies showing that the net result is negative through increased exhaust emissions, more congestion on the roads and more waste going to landfill.

The Republic of Ireland’s carrier bag tax led people who had been reusing plastic bags as bin liners and for collecting pet droppings to purchase heavier-gauge refuse sacks. As a result, many claimed, there was no major change in the total tonnage of plastic bags used in the country.

What’s more, manufacturers of plastic bags claim that they are less polluting than paper bags during production. Studies by Winnipeg Varsity demonstrate that plastic bag production uses only one third of the energy, results in half the pollution and needs only one eighth of the raw material required by equivalent paper bag manufacture.

Plastic bag reuse is also a strong factor in the argument. According to research by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (defra), plastic carriers are reused by eighty percent of homes. At the end of its useful life, plastic waste can be used in several European nations for waste incineration, as the energy released has greater calorific value than coal. The plastic film industry encourages more clean incineration of waste to help reduce dependence on landfill but it must be remembered that carrier bags take up a mere 0.3% of landfill.

WRAP reveals plastics recycling breakthroughs

Monday, September 26th, 2011

WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) has revealed that it could soon be possible to recycle almost all plastic packaging waste from domestic environments. Although over 300,000 tonnes of plastic packaging is collected for recycling each year – including a large number of plastic carrier bags – more than a million tonnes ends up going to landfill sites due to the problems of collecting and recycling films, detecting and sorting black plastics and the lack of high-value markets for non-bottle plastics.

WRAP – which works in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to help businesses and individuals reap the benefits of reducing waste – has identified a type of black plastic which, unlike conventional black plastics, can be detected by sorting systems in materials recovery facilities (MRFs). In a series of trials funded by WRAP, methods have also been identified to recycle complex laminated plastics, plastic films and polypropylene (PP) – materials that would typically be destined for landfill.

The tests found that, by using non-carbon pigments in the manufacture of black plastics, it is possible to create a material that is almost identical in colour but which can be identified by the type of optical sorting equipment used in MRFs. This development, WRAP believes, could lead to the widespread recycling of the most common plastic used in packaging into high-value, single-polymer materials.

For complex laminated packaging – as used in toothpaste and cosmetics tubes – another trial has found a way to recover the layer of high-value aluminium that is sandwiched between plastics. WRAP estimates that the 140,000 tonnes of this laminated packaging in the UK waste stream has an aluminium content of around 13,500 tonnes.

A further trial has resulted in a technique that could recycle post-consumer PP back in to material suitable for food-grade applications. Further work is required, but WRAP believes this development could help to grow high-value markets for recycled PP. It could also result in significant environmental benefits as retailers begin to use it in their packaging.

Interestingly, a method has also been developed that cleans and recycles contaminated film, producing a pellet with a sales value of £400 to £500 per tonne. The cost of sending this material to landfill is currently around £80 per tonne, so WRAP says the advantages of recycling this material are clear.

Commented Marcus Gover, Director of Closed Loop Economy at WRAP, “When we first looked at recycling non-bottle plastic packaging back in 2007, we carried out detailed studies to make sure it would be technically and economical viable. We also carried out a thorough life-cycle assessment to make sure it was the best environmental option. We’re now seeing this recycling becoming a reality, creating jobs and re-invigorating the manufacturing industry in the UK, reducing our reliance on exports.” He continued, “There have been, and there are still, barriers to overcome and WRAP will continue to work closely with the industry to develop these new methods and technologies so that, in the future, local authorities can offer their residents a way of recycling even more of their plastic packaging.”

Co-op hits out at Scottish bag tax

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

The Co-operative Group has become the latest organisation in the retail sector to voice its concerns over the proposed plastic bag tax in Scotland.

Becky Toal, the group’s Environmental Programme Manager, laid out the case against the tax at an environmental committee meeting in the Scottish Parliament recently. Arguing against the proposed levy of 10p on plastic bags across Scotland, Ms Toal said that, while the Co-op backed the ethos of waste management, it feared the bag tax would have a negative overall effect on the environment and might even result in violence in its stores.

“The Co-op is committed to seeking new ways of minimising the impact of industry on the environment,” Ms Toal told the committee. “We firmly support the Scottish Executive’s desire to tackle the problem of waste and have introduced a raft of environmentally-friendly initiatives over the years to reduce the environmental impact of our trading activities.”

“The Co-operative Group and other societies trading within Scotland do not believe the current proposal is a workable solution to the challenge of minimising the environmental impact of plastic carrier bags,” she continued.

Ms Toal argued that the Co-op agreed with Scottish Retail Consortium’s view that plastic carrier bags are not a significant contributor to litter pollution. The Co-op, she explained, also agreed with the SRC that customer pressure to replace plastic bags with paper bags would undo the work of the bag levy. The SRC has argued that paper bags have a higher environmental impact in terms of production than plastic bags. In addition, as paper bags are 4-5 times more voluminous than plastic ones, more deliveries are required to get them to stores, adding to road miles, congestion and emissions.

Ms Toal also added that the Co-op feared that customers might start a backlash, with the risk of violence in stores. “Store-based colleagues would be likely to face significant customer challenge to the introduction of the levy,” she said. “The rise of physical and verbal abuse faced by many employees in the retail sector has been well charted by Usdaw in its Freedom From Fear campaign. If responsibility for communicating about the levy rests with retailers and retail employees, they would be likely to face uncertainty, at best, and annoyance, at worst, from consumers.”