Everything You Need to Know About UK Venues Reopening

It’s true, live events are back! Planners in the UK can now do what you do best and start preparing for a return to safe venues, meeting rooms and conference halls, which have all been busy implementing a full range of measures to keep you and your delegates safe.

For some, the restart will be as early as 1 August. Venues capable of adhering to strict safety guidelines and able to accommodate social distancing requirements are permitted to open their doors for small meetings and events for up to 30 delegates from the beginning of next month.

For others – those responsible for larger meetings, exhibitions and conferences – your time will come from 1 October, providing that pilot activity currently taking place in venues up and down the country, proves successful in testing how best to implement social distancing and safety measures.

How we’ve reached this point

The road to get to where the industry now finds itself has been a long one. MICE planners were forced to sit back and watch as retail, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions were all released from lockdown, while events remained shackled.

Hotel riu plaza espana

Behind the scenes, however, lobbying by the Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP), plus the creation of a raft of reopening plans from the Association of Event Organisers (AEO), the Meetings Industry Association (mia) and the Events Industry Forum, finally saw the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) publish its guidance and support the industry’s recommendations.

What information and guidance is available

To ensure that as planners, you have renewed confidence to now move forward and start adding live elements to successful virtual formats or begin planning truly hybrid event activity, it’s highly recommended that you read the DCMS’ visitor economy guidance and ensure that you’re up-to-date with the comprehensive advice published by the different associations.

The mia, for example, says that venues must conduct a risk assessment and are advised to carry out all the steps featured in its reopening guidance.

To provide the necessary assurances to government, as well as confidence to delegates that these steps have been followed, the association is further recommending that venues obtain AIM Secure accreditation and the VisitBritain ‘We’re Good To Go’ standard. So do check before you book that these standards and practices are in place and are being adhered to.

Room SanitizerWhen it comes to managing how conferences and larger business events will look post-October, the DCMS states that the following mitigations will need to be meticulously applied:

  • Crowd Density Standard: at a capacity allowing for compliance with social distancing of two metres, or one metre with mitigation (approximately equivalent to a density of 10sqm per person)
  • Controlled entry: staggering admission to ensure socially distanced arrival
  • Managing queues outside the venue to ensure they do not cause a risk to individuals or other businesses, for example by introducing queuing systems, using barriers and having staff direct customers
  • Controlled flow during an event: introducing one-way systems and timed tickets to control flow and alleviate congestion
  • Providing floor markings, where appropriate, and signage to remind both workers and customers to follow social distancing wherever possible
  • Assigning appropriately distanced seating where events have a seated element and to encourage seated events
  • Ensuring that on-site speakers are subject to restrictions on live performances

Trade Fairs and Consumer Exhibitions

The All Secure Standard, launched by a combined group of members from the Association of Event Organisers (AEO), the Association Event Venues (AEV) and the Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA), sets out to achieve common standards of health, safety and operational planning, management and on-site conduct for both trade fairs and consumer exhibitions.

The DCMS’ recommendations for exhibitions include:

  • Attendees should pre-book and pre-register to attend events
  • Contactless registration systems will be introduced at venues to reduce waiting times and limit contact between organisers and guests
  • A digital-first approach should be adopted to eliminate the need for physical badges and lanyards
  • Paper handouts and gifts can no longer be offered
  • Entrance to event or conference spaces will be staggered to reduce queuing and overall capacity will be limited to ensure social distancing can be maintained
  • Events will be planned around one way systems for visitors
  • Spaces between exhibition booths will be increased and aisles widened to achieve social distancing requirements
  • All venues will also have enhanced cleaning procedures, with hand washing and sanitising facilities at frequent intervals.

Hand SanitizerThe DCMS also recommends that MICE planners should consider the relevant sections of workplace guidance as well as relevant guidance on pubs and restaurants and the UKHospitality guidance for catering requirements.

The government department responsible for the UK events and hospitality economy comments:

The opening up of the economy following the COVID-19 outbreak is being supported by NHS Test and Trace. You should assist this service by keeping a temporary record of your customers and visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for your business but effective for managing disease transmission risks, and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed.

Meanwhile, outdoor events – including agriculture shows and festivals – are covered by events guidance drafted by the Events Industry Forum.

There really is a wealth of information now readily available to help your safe return to running in-person events and Cvent is on-hand as a trusted partner to help with all planning aspects for both live and hybrid activity including socially distanced room layouts, virtual venue tours, event app development and much more.

Preparation is now key and MICE planners know that better than anyone. We can’t wait to see Britain return safely to the business of face-to-face.


Mike Fletcher

Written by Mike Fletcher

Mike has been writing about the meetings and events industry for almost 20 years as a former editor at Haymarket Media Group, and then as a freelance writer and editor. He currently runs his own content agency, Slippy Media, catering for a wide-range of client requirements, including social strategy, long-form, event photography, event videography, reports, blogs and ghost-written material.