‘Hindsight is a wonderful thing’ – only if your business is affected by all the same influences next year as it was this. The reality is, of course, that change is a constant in our world. The business that can look ahead to see the brands, trends and ideals that will be moving the hearts and minds of its customers in the future, is the business that will continue to thrive.

To help you steer your business through the eddies and riffles of 2019, davies tanner has produced a review of the initiatives, agendas, trends and developments that we believe will be topical in the year ahead.

Brexit

First out of the gate, Brexit will finally happen at the end of March 2019. Or will it? At the time of writing, no one really knows where the UK’s dog’s dinner withdrawal from the EU will end up. Whether its Soft Brexit, Hard Brexit, No Brexit, the only certainty so far is Pantomime Brexit complete with heroes, villains, hecklers, jokers (sorry, Boris) cries of ‘Will they? Won’t they?’ and an audience that’s shouting, ‘Get on with it!’ to the people on the main stage. Of course, like all pantomimes, it will all be alright on the night. Or at least we all hope it will. Until our leaders agree how we’ll leave, or decide not to, you can expect lots more pandemonium in the Brexit playhouse in the coming months. And only a fool would predict how it will end.

Let’s move on.

Focus on international trade

In 2019, the UK has its eyes fixed firmly on becoming a globally trading nation, and tourism’s power to drive major economic growth is set to come into focus. The government is taking tourism seriously and is highly likely to agree a tourism sector initiative with the aim of attracting more domestic and overseas visitors.

Jeremy Wright, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has called for the wider tourism industry, which includes business visits and events, to show its commitment in promoting UK tourism throughout the year and not just in peak summer months, which leads us to the promotion of ‘alternative destinations’.

Alternative destinations

A lot has been made already this year about the rise of second and third tier cities, as viable (or indeed advantageous) destinations for large domestic and international congresses and conventions, in 2019 the benefit of alternative destinations will hit mainstream consciousness. Next year will see the opening of exciting new venues in these types of locations including ICC Wales in Newport and The Event Complex Aberdeen. With the government driven to promote UK-wide tourism, you can expect this concept to be championed throughout the year; so, what does it mean?

Michael Hirst OBE, Chair, Business Visits and Events Partnership explains, “Part of current government strategy is to encourage corporate event planners and agencies to explore alternative destinations in the UK, an initiative that is fully supported by the events industry.

“London continues to be the leading city of choice for events in Europe, but there are more exceptional destinations across the UK with first-class venues. Smaller cities are working harder, smarter and more collaboratively to give corporate event planners and their delegates an excellent value more personalised experience, without needing to compromise quality.”

Midsize cities are more affordable and have made themselves more appealing by investing heavily in urban revitalisation, events infrastructure and transport links. At the same time, they’re individually refocussing their branding messages to highlight sector strengths – especially in high-tech and creative industries – and are promoting the availability of local leaders in those sectors as exhibitors, sponsors and speakers. Thinking of proposing a client brings their event to York? You’ll be taken seriously in 2019.

Beyond Tourism Benefits

Sector strengths or ‘beyond tourism benefits’ is another topic that has risen to the fore in 2018 and, bolstered by government strategy, will enter the mainstream next year.

Shane Hannam, Portfolio Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions comments, “Increasingly, business events are being used as a transformative tool by governments that wish to support and grow investment and knowledge in economic clusters. For businesses to innovate and grow, they need a workforce with sophisticated skills of all kinds, yet few have all the skills needed to achieve this on their own. Business events are opportunities for the destination’s professionals to access insight from the brightest and most knowledgeable minds in their industry. They can equip the local sector workforce with skills, cutting-edge knowledge, global networks and collaborative projects to drive innovation.”

Increased recognition of the economy-growing legacy of business events has huge potential for our industry and you can look forward to its strategic influence growing in 2019.

Transformative Travel

While we’re on the subject of transformative, the word finds itself at the heart of another travel sector trend that’s set to gain traction next year – transformative travel. People are using travel to reach higher levels of self-actualisation, through personal development and growth. Transformative travel is said to be the preference of Millennials, who typically value life experiences and authenticity higher than material processions. Millennials want more than the ‘traditional tourist’ experience. They want to ‘live’ in a destination and view it through the eyes of a local, having experiences that make them feel more connected to their communities and other people, while learning something new about themselves.

The Transformational Travel Council promotes it like this – transformative travel is a “HERO” – “traveling with Heart; seeking Engagement; having the Resolve to work through challenges; and leaving your heart, mind, and soul Open to the unknown.”

To make your programme transformative and authentic you can take delegates trekking into the mountains, have them stay with locals in their homes, enrol them in silent meditation retreats or have them train with skilled local artisans or volunteer for community work.

Experiences like these work for corporate groups because they get people out of their usual mindset and expose them to new ways of being and thinking.

5G-wiz

No article discussing the future would be complete without mentioning technology, and while this one largely avoids, we couldn’t pass up the chance to mention one major technological development expected next year – 5G. The launch of 5G means your smartphone is about to get a whole lot quicker and more useful. 5G mobile technology is around 1,000 times faster than current 4G technology, it will create many new uses for smartphones and enable long-promised event-transforming technologies such as Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and ‘Internet of Things’. Next year is just the beginning, only a handful of phones supporting 5G will be launched, it’s your chance to get ready, 2020 will be the year of widespread adoption.

The Roaring 20s are Coming Back

As the final year before a brand-new decade begins, don’t be surprised if popular culture rushes 2019 away as excitement for the 2020s builds. We’ll all be calling it the ‘Twenties’ in not time and who will be able to resist a 1920s-styled ‘Roaring Twenties’ revival?

The 1920s is the decade in which the modern era began, with the spread of chain stores, national advertising campaigns and internationally popular music artists. It was glamourous, lively and full of potential. Thoughts of the twenties conjure up images of vintage cars driving on empty city roads and rows of Flappers – young woman with bobbed hair and matching outfits – dancing the Charleston with beaming smiles. The twenties was an era of sophistication, creativity, technological advances and empowerment for woman; a retro-revival of all that was good from those time is inevitable.

Modern-twist twenties themed event products and experiences will engage audiences and gain association benefits with an era that still feels modern, yet oozes nostalgia and fuels unadulterated optimism.

That’s all for the 2019 predictions folks.

Happy New Year!