Government must back the business events sector and include it in its development programme for the 2012 Olympic Games, industry leaders have warned.
The Business Tourism Partnership (BTP), the Hotel Booking Agents' Association (HBAA) and tourism authority VisitBritain have called on the Government to include the sector in its Creative Economy Programme to develop key creative industries in the run-up to the Olympics.
As part of this strategy, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has included the advertising, fashion and media industries in its thinking. However, DCMS has refused the business events sector a role.
BTP chairman Michael Hirst said: "Business events, conferencing, exhibitions and incentive travel are creative industries. We need to get higher on the Government agenda, and this sector needs to be recognised as a trailblazer of the economy."
Loraine Holdcroft, executive director at the HBAA, said: "Government recognition of the contribution that the sector makes to the general economy is long overdue. It is important that the industry is included in the CEP because its contribution needs to be taken into account when Government decisions are made."
A spokeswoman for the department said: "DCMS takes business tourism very seriously. We are discussing with the BTP how the interests of business tourism can best be fed into the wider Creative Economy Programme."
The CEP is due to publish its white paper in September.
Value of business tourism
Business tourism's wider economic impact is valued at more than £20b a year.
The value of business done at trade events is estimated at more than £100b per year.
Over the past decade, the volume of business trips has grown by 53%.
8.17 million visits were made to the UK for business in 2005.
Business tourism accounts for 530,000 jobs directly and indirectly.
By Emily Manson