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Four in five UK venues could operate with social distancing, says mia

The majority (82 per cent) of UK venues could operate with social distancing measures – but will require continued government support, according to new research from the Meetings Industry Association.

In order to reopen 46 per cent of venue operators would have to reduce their capacity by half. As a result, 59 per cent of venues would not break even while 80 per cent expect to lose more than half of their monthly turnover.

The research was undertaken following an urgent request from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and supplied to the Social Distancing Commission on Friday 1 May. It’s a clear signal to the government that additional support measures will be required to help the sector move quickly into recovery when the green light is given.

The research also revealed that without a phased reduction and extension of the government’s furlough scheme beyond the end of June, 38 per cent of venues would make more than half of their workforce redundant.

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the mia, said: “From the data collected, analysis shows there would be approximately 1,953 redundancies of both skilled and unskilled workers.”

Based on the industry insight, the paper also calls for organised events such as conferences, exhibitions and business meetings that have a specific purpose to not fall under the World Health Organisation’s ambiguous term of ‘mass gatherings’.

Longhurst added: “Unlike larger unorganised gatherings, we can put multiple measures in place to manage the flow and track and trace the attendees in our venues, for example, while ensuring that public health requirements are adhered to. Without a distinction being made between ‘mass gatherings’ and ‘organised events’, our recovery will be significantly affected when the lockdown restrictions are eased.”

What is clear is the sector needs time to prepare and clear guidance. The speed in which venues can reopen – recall and retrain furloughed staff as well as restart the supply chain – is vastly increased if notice is provided. Just 12 per cent of venues would be able to open immediately, while 47 per cent would require up to two weeks lead time, 29 per cent between two and four weeks and 12 per cent over a month.

The mia has offered to work with the government to ensure that all public health measures are embedded into the industry’s standard legal compliance criteria and adhered to.

“Crucially, the government needs to put in place a public confidence campaign to support the sector,” added Longhurst. “As we slowly come out of lockdown, it is imperative that clear measures are put in place to initially allow the industry to build buyer confidence with smaller meetings, seminars and training, to demonstrate how amazing events can still happen even in an environment of social distancing.”

Copies of the paper presented to DCMS on Friday, 1 May, can be downloaded from the mia’s website here.

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