Boris Johnson's call for more London venues contradictory, says AEO's chief exec

Karim Halwagi, CEO of the Association of Event Organisers, has hit back at comments made by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who said the capital needs more convention centres if it is to truly leverage its Olympic legacy.

AEO's Karim Halwagi speaks out about Boris Johnson's comments
AEO's Karim Halwagi speaks out about Boris Johnson's comments

It comes two weeks after Johnson told Event bringing more events to the capital and boosting business tourism as part of the Olympic legacy was crucial, but highlighted a need to improve on the existing event infrastructure.

Halwagi, who has been involved a campaign to save Earls Court, in collaboration with the Earls Court Area Action Group, said: "The Mayor’s comments are indeed interesting. He is correct that there is a need for more venue stock in the capital, but this flies in the face of his actions with respect to his support of the proposed demolition of Earls Court.

"When Boris Johnson talks of the Olympic legacy, he seems to be targeting smaller meetings and conferences, without including one of the greatest economic mainstays of the events industry; exhibitions. Departments of national government, most notably UKTI, persistently ask how we can attract ‘world shows’ to the UK, and this begins with the need for world-class venues of the right size to accommodate these types of events."

When asked whether existing venues are capable of attracting new events to London, Halwagi said: "It depends on the nature of the event, however, attracting new exhibitions, especially the much-vaunted world shows, is nigh-on impossible with current venue stock.

"If we are going to develop our industry and attract further organisers to the UK marketplace, more venues are most definitely needed, especially of a greater scale. Germany boasts multiple venues in excess of 200,000sqm, which is why they host so many international events."

He added the need for more venues is not just in London but nationwide: "Their positioning can also play a major role in stimulating regional economic activity."

Is there a need for more large-scale venues in London, as well as nationwide? Comment bellow to let us know what you think.

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