The north-east has been dealt a significant boost after organisers of a huge oil and gas conference confirmed it is still on track to go ahead as planned later this year.
Local business leaders and politicians welcomed the news that Reed Exhibitions are pushing on with arrangements for SPE Offshore Europe 2021
The organisers don’t expect the use of the P&J Live as a mass vaccination centre to derail the event.
The conference, which takes place every two years and attracts tens of thousands of delegates from across the world, is scheduled to take place at the Aberdeen venue from September 7-10.
NHS Grampian and Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership are currently making final arrangements to use the venue as an immunisation facility from next week.
Clare Houston, NHS Grampian project lead, previously said: “We will continue to be running mass vaccination until we have every member of the public who wants to be vaccinated, vaccinated.”
It was confirmed earlier this week that Subsea Expo, which was due to take place at P&J Live in May, having already been pushed back from February, had been called off due to the pandemic.
Jonathan Heastie, portfolio director – energy & marine at Reed Exhibitions, said: “We’re fully behind the NHS as it delivers the vaccination programme that will help us get back to enjoying a more normal way of life, including face-to-face events such as SPE Offshore Europe, as soon as possible.
“We don’t expect the temporary arrangement to use the P&J Live as a mass vaccination centre to impact on the delivery of SPE Offshore Europe 2021 in September.”
A spokeswoman for P&J Live also confirmed that the “vaccination centre can run in tandem with other events, should this be required in the future”.
Around 38,000 people from 119 counties flocked to Aberdeen in 2019 to attend the last Offshore Europe showcase, delivering a huge boost to the local economy.
In August 2020, it was revealed that more than half of the exhibition space for this year’s event, which will focus on decarbonisation and net zero, had been sold, despite the ongoing impact of Covid-19.
Douglas Lumsden, Conservative co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, said it would be a “disaster” for the north-east if the show doesn’t go ahead in September as planned.
He added: “Offshore Europe is a vital piece of the local economy. It comes every two years to the city and generates so much money, not just for the oil and gas industry but for local pubs, restaurants and taxis.
“It’s really important that it goes ahead this year. Fingers crossed the vaccination programme continues and we’ll be out of lockdown by the time the conference comes around.”
Seona Shand, membership and events director at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: “Offshore Europe is a landmark event for the energy sector and the north-east, traditionally bringing tens of thousands of visitors to the region and boosting the coffers of our hospitality and retail businesses over the course of the show.
“It is also a large, complex event which can’t be set up overnight so it’s right to be pushing on with planning in the hope that life will have returned to something more akin to ‘normal’ by September.
“We know that the business community is eager to get back to meeting in person at events like this just a soon as it is safe to do so and, as hosts of the opening event of the show, the business breakfast, the Chamber, the conference organisers and the venue are all working together to ensure the safety of delegates is very much the priority.”
Frank Whitaker, chairman of the Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels Association, said: “Offshore Europe is a significant event and I think that, apart from the shot in the arm it will give the industry for the week in September, it’s a symbol of the bigger picture.
“It’s a sign that events and exhibitions can start to happen again and that commercial activity is being encouraged. While it is going to be significant and it’s very welcome I think it’s also fair to say that the hotel industry needs significantly more than one week of revenue.”
Stuart McPhee from Aberdeen Hospitality Together said: “Any positive news at this stage is very welcome. Given the vaccine is gathering pace we all have grounds for cautious optimism, especially towards the latter half of this year when Offshore Europe is due to take place.
“We definitely welcome the organisers’ commitment to try and make the conference happen and we’d like to work with them to try and work out what the hospitality industry can do to make sure it happens safely.”
NHS Grampian was contacted for comment.