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“A nail in the coffin”: eventprofs react to latest lockdown

“A nail in the coffin”. That’s how one agency head described the effect of the latest Covid-19 restrictions for many event professionals.

The lockdown regulations that Boris Johnson announced for England on Monday 4 January came as no surprise to anyone, amid soaring infection rates across the country associated with the new variant of Covid-19.

However, the inevitability of the restrictions doesn’t make them any less devastating for those involved in live events.

An agency head told me: “This is the nail in the coffin for many events companies. A lot of hope hung on the return of live events coming in spring. I can’t see it coming.”

While chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new grant scheme to help retail, hospitality and leisure businesses to stay afloat until spring, it wasn’t immediately clear if event companies will be eligible for the grants, worth up to £9,000. The Meetings Industry Association said it was seeking clarity on the announcement.

However, the lack of clarity around business events is what some event professionals have come to expect from government. Malcolm Shelbourne, chief executive of INTERCEM Conferences, described the measures as “just more dross”.

He added: “The business grants will be very, very difficult for agencies and event businesses to access as they have been since the start. It’s almost as if the Government targeted our industry for deliberate decimation.”

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association, is in no doubt what needs to happen.

“We now need immediate intervention to support the business meetings and events industry which is unable to operate in a sustainable way to generate essential revenue,” she said.

The mia is calling on the government to provide a specific package of support for the sector and extend its Job Retention Scheme to the end of Q3.

“Only this will provide employers with a viable means of retaining their workforce and preventing a surge in unemployment,” added Longhurst.

While a specific package of support would be welcomed by all, the industry is now faced with the fact that business will be stalled well beyond Q3 2021.

Clare Bingham, engagement and operations director at brand engagement agency FMI, said: “I’m not surprised we’re now in lockdown 3.0 and oddly it’s beginning to feel normal. It’s a tragedy for our decimated incentives and events industry and all those who cannot work. Perhaps light will be at the end of 2021.”