The passing of Queen Elizabeth II has set in motion ten days of mourning during which much of London will be paralyzed. So how are meeting and incentive groups coping?
The death of Queen Elizabeth II, whose reign of almost seven decades made her Britain’s longest-serving monarch, is impacting not only London, where she will be lying in state at Westminster Hall but the entire UK. For planners with events or incentives to take place during this time, challenging decisions must be made. One thing is for sure, be prepared to be flexible as plans are likely to change at short notice.
Event planners must establish whether their venue, hotel, and other service providers will be operating when they are in the UK. The reality is many businesses have been adversely impacted by Covid lockdowns and the burgeoning cost-of-living crisis and will want to remain open. However, there is also a certain amount of social pressure on businesses to acknowledge Queen Elizabeth II’s passing by pausing or reducing operations temporarily.
The UK Government has provided no guidelines, advising businesses to make their own decisions. Organizations are not obligated to suspend business during the national mourning period.
Some businesses will close out of respect to the monarchy, while others say they are honoring the queen’s legacy by continuing to serve.
The recent announcement of an additional bank holiday in the UK, aligning with the funeral date, adds another wrinkle. Planners must contact their hotels and other venues as soon as possible to determine if their event is impacted and the alternative options.
London, where the funeral will take place, will feel the biggest impact, but so will all of the UK. For instance, the Liberal Democrats were due to hold their party conference between September 17-20 in Brighton, 54 miles south of London, but canceled the event out of respect.
Should planners shift dates or venues at short notice? “Utilize your connections and find out what your situation is,” said Susan Arslan, Regional Director at HelmsBriscoe.
Everything is fluid, and arrangements can change at any minute. Even if you have no direct contacts in London, speak to eventprofs in the UK. Everyone is connected, and you may find your situation is not as bad as envisaged.
Another option may be to pivot to a virtual or hybrid event if needed. Arslan recommends that you talk to your venue and work out options now.
Mike May, president of Brightspot Incentives & Events, recommends that those operating meetings or incentives in the UK or British territories on Monday, September 19, the day of the state funeral, suspend or, at the very least, alter them.
“If a business meeting already has a packed agenda for Monday, a creative approach could be to broadcast live the actual funeral and adjust a two-hour block of time to share respect virtually as a group gathering. During that time, adjust classroom or theater seating with rounds or a mix of soft seating,” said May.
Getting Around London
London is always busy, now more than usual. Not only that, rates have skyrocketed. Planners must be aware of congestion hot spots and make alternative plans where they can. Huge numbers of mourners are anticipated in the days leading up to the funeral as the late queen lies in state.
“London will be busier than normal, there will be disruptions, but many events will still be going ahead, and I would advise all organizers and delegates to make sure they have planned their travel in light of that and pre-checked with venues and hotels,” said Tracy Halliwell, director of tourism, conventions and major events for London at London & Partners.
If you have to cancel or postpone your event, there may be some recompense if you have taken out national mourning coverage. UK-based insurance specialists, INEVEXCO, offer such cover as an extension to cancellation insurance.
They have coverage that allows for extended national mourning. This means they can lengthen the period of cover. Some organizers were securing this cover in the few days before the queen died. Cover is also available to protect future events from national mourning of other aging senior royals.
This mourning period will be a challenge for planners. The most important thing you can do is keep communication channels open with service providers and continuously update your all-important delegates and stakeholders.