Planning European exhibitions in a post-Brexit world
Posted by Tom Oakes
Three years after the vote, businesses in the UK are still awaiting an outcome on Brexit. This has made life a little tricky for us all, because it’s difficult to plan for a future when we don’t know what that future holds.
In the world of events, however, there is one certainty: any form of Brexit will have an impact on planning to exhibit in Europe. So it’s good to start preparing now.
With nearly 50% of the UK’s exports being shipped to the continent, business with those countries will continue to be crucial. Which means European exhibitions will too. And although the uncertainty means we can’t go into too much detail about how to Brexit-proof your business, here are three areas worth thinking about to get yourself ready.
Transportation of exhibition assets
Exhibiting at an event means being on the ball with your timing. You need to be confident you’ll arrive with plenty of time to unload and set up.
Travelling directly from the UK has always had its transportation issues, but these have been suggested to get a whole lot more difficult with Brexit. Especially when it comes to increased delays getting through ports like Dover (where there have already been ‘test’ tailbacks). So if you are still planning to transport directly from the UK, you will need to account for the extra time it could take—to make sure your fleet reaches mainland Europe, and your exhibition, on time.
Alternatively, there is a far more cost-effective and Brexit-proof approach available, which is having your exhibition stand built and delivered entirely on the continent! As an exhibitions company with longstanding relationships with many fantastic European contractors, we already know just how much time, effort and money this approach can save. And it’s the perfect way to offset the uncertainty and stress of any Brexit issues. Because not only does it remove any supply chain issues for materials (see below), but it also means transportation of assets can be done quickly, simply, and far more cheaply with local fleets than if it was coming from the UK. All of which will help your exhibition schedule stay on track, no matter what happens in the coming months.
Increased costs and administration
Any regulatory changes can be problematic, so changes on this scale for businesses regularly travelling out of the UK are likely to come with increased costs and administration.
It’s a good idea to start planning for future exhibitions in Europe by allowing for potential new tariffs, quotas, and other requirements in your event budget and strategy. You will also need to allow for increased complexity of the logistical paperwork. For example, new documentation that could be needed for working/exhibiting in Europe under the new rules (such as having to acquire a visa), as well as for transporting the assets out of the UK and onto the continent. These changes will also lead to increased costs, at least at first, given the extra time you will be spending coming to terms with the new documentation and processes required.
Doing your research ahead of time can help. For example, studying examples of what it already costs businesses already outside the EU to exhibit there is a great way of getting an idea of what to expect. However, this is again something an established exhibitions partner with European contractors can help with. Not only can this more flexible approach to organising exhibition stand design, build and delivery (by using contractors nearest the venue) keep costs low and avoid any complicated international red tape. It will also mean you won’t have to sacrifice other aspects of your event strategy.
Impact on supply chain
It isn’t just the physical act of getting your stand designed, built and transported to the event that will be impacted by Brexit. If you are undertaking the work in the UK, it could also affect how you build your stand too.
Every exhibition stand is created using a range of raw materials and components that may well have originated from outside the UK (in full or in part). A disruption to the current supply chain will certainly impact the availability and cost of these materials. Smart exhibition stand designers will, of course, be thinking of creative ways to get around this and looking for more local sources. But inevitably there will be areas where European suppliers will be needed.
Keeping an eye on future agreements for tariff-free access to these markets is one way to prepare for what to expect. But it won’t prevent your business being impacted. So, as we mentioned above, opting for an established team with European connections could be the best way to minimise supply chain disruption to your exhibition planning and keep your event planning as seamless as possible.
What you can do to offset these issues
Any Brexit will bring some level of impact to exhibition planning and execution for European events, so it’s a good idea to consider your options for either mitigating the impact to your business or trying to work around it.
Using an experienced exhibitions partner with longstanding European contractors can help take the pressure off. The flexible, tailored approach to event planning across the continent means your assets and transportation are going to be more local to the venue and you won’t have to pay extra or suffer huge delays to get out of the UK because of any changes. It will also mean supply chain disruption with materials is kept to a minimum. In fact, it’s the perfect way to future-proof your exhibition planning in Europe, whatever happens with Brexit.