Harrogate joins Wimbledon in playing vital role in Government's test 'pilot' events scheme

Harrogate is to play a key role in the  reopening of the live events sector in England after winning its bid to become a Government ‘pilot’.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 10:42 am
Updated Friday, 2nd July 2021, 10:44 am
Back in action - Harrogate Convention Centre which in a normal year hosts an estimated 150,000 conference and trade delegates with a local economic impact of more than £35m.

When the popular Gift Fair returns to Harrogate Convention Centre in three weeks time, it will be only the second Government pilot in the entire UK business events sector.

As well as meaning Harrogate’s biggest venue will be able to reopen after its role as a NHS Nightingale Hospital for the first time since early 2020 with no restrictions on visitor numbers or social distancing requirements, it also represents a positive step forward for the town’s economy.

Harrogate Convention Centre’s boss said joining high-profile sports events such as Wimbledon and Euro 2020 matches in the Government scheme was a crucial moment for the whole of the town.

Paula Lorimer said: “We’re very proud that Harrogate is leading the national conference and exhibitions sector as an ERP pilot for our industry.

“It’s a recognition of the key role of Harrogate Convention Centre, and our industry as a whole, in driving local economies and, arguably, supporting the levelling up agenda in the North.

“We have over £15m of economic impact currently on our books between now and next March, and are raring to go, with safety being our highest priority.”

This first step back to normality for Harrogate’s visitor economy comes in the same week the Government gave its strongest commitment to date to end all lockdown rules on July 19 as part of the roadmap.

The brightening picture also saw hundreds flock to The Stray last weekend to enjoy the ticket-only Harrogate Food & Drink Festival which was last held in 2019.

As for Harrogate Convention Centre, it will host both the Home and Gift Buyers’ Festival and the Manchester Furniture Show as part of the Government’s events research programme (ERP) pilot.

Other events to take this role nationally have included: World Snooker Championships, the FA Cup Final, The Brit Awards, Wimbledon and the Euro football championships.

Opening for the first time in 15 months since its standby role as an NHS Nightingale Hospital, Harrogate Convention Centre will host both shows from July 18-21 as part of a Government scheme to help get audiences back safely into the wider events sector as lockdown eases and eventually ends.

In a normal year, Harrogate Convention Centre hosts an estimated 150,000 conference and trade delegates with an economic impact of more than £35m on local hotels, B&Bs, bars, restaurants and shops.

The return of the Home & Gift Buyers’ Festival, in particular, an event, which had been coming to Harrogate for 58 years until the onset of the global pandemic, offers hope to the town’s conference facilities which have been dormant during Harrogate Convention Centre’s long stint as an NHS Nightingale.

The biggest such affair in the north, the Gift Fair has been engaged in lengthy talks with Harrogate Convention Centre and the Government about the specifics of its return.

Russell Rule, show director of Home & Gift Buyers’ Festival, said: “With the backing of the Government, public health bodies, and our key customers we can see that the appetite and enthusiasm are there for an in-person buying and selling event.

“There is great excitement from both exhibitors and visitors to reconnect in Harrogate to celebrate our 60th Anniversary.”

The Gift Fair’s return in a few weeks time promises big name brands, exciting new show sectors and a wealth of keynote speakers.

Under the ERP pilot conditions, there will be no restrictions on visitor numbers or social distancing requirements on any day of the four-day event.

All attendees will be required to certify either they have had two vaccinations at least two weeks prior to attending or a negative NHS Lateral Flow Test at least 48hrs before attending.

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