‘Shameful’ lack of industry support in PM’s lockdown relaxation

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the relaxation of lockdown restrictions in England, including the reopening restaurants, pubs, hairdressers, nail bars, hotels and bed and breakfasts, as long as shared facilities are kept clean.

The announcement, made in the House of Commons on Tuesday 23 June, detailed a new, relaxed set of regulations including reducing the two-metre social distancing rule to one-metre when keeping two-metres apart is not an option.

However, the announcement’s lack of focus on the events industry was met with criticism. Business Visits and Event Partnership (BVEP) chair, Simon Hughes, described the lack of specific reference to events in Johnson’s statement as “shameful”.

“This is a bitter pill for the entire events industry and, quite frankly, a shameful situation after weeks and months of work by the BVEP and its partners.”

Michael Hirst, chair of the Events Industry Board took to Twitter to express his disappointment over the announcement.

“So disappointing. Nothing in PM statement on reopening events whilst sectors less critical to economy get green light. Event leaders highlight damage to business and employment. Will be working with government for start date ASAP. In meantime keep pressure on your local MP.”

The PM also announced most leisure facilities and tourist attractions including cinemas, galleries, theme parks, libraries, social clubs and arcades can reopen.

However, the PM reiterated throughout the announcement that these relaxations can be reversed on a local and national level if the UK sees an increase in Covid-19 cases.

“While we remain vigilant, we do not believe there is currently a risk of a second peak of infections that might overwhelm the NHS,” Johnson said in his statement.

Other industry professionals were also quick to respond to the announcement.

HBAA chair Lex Butler said: “Covid-19 and lockdown have been a hammer blow to business events, meetings and accommodation agencies, venues and suppliers, for the whole sector.

Lex Butler.

Lex Butler.

“By reducing social distancing to one metre plus and providing guidelines, the Government has wrapped the hammer in plastic…while we welcome the relaxing of this distance, the damage has been done.”

However, Butler recognised that reducing the two-metre distancing rule makes meetings and event “just about viable”.

The announcement also stated that guests, delegates and diners at hospitality venues such as restaurants, hotels and event venues will be required to identify themselves as they arrive, giving an added layer of confidence to the industry.

“Now, after chasing these guidelines for many weeks, the industry has less than two weeks to put the exact requirements in place. It’s a challenge but one we’re pleased to have at last,” Butler added.

Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound said the announcement would come as a “huge relief”. He also expressed his gratitude to the Government for listening to the industry’s plea for ‘air corridors’ with other countries, “a step that signals that the UK’s tourism inbound industry is keen to welcome international tourists again.”

However, there still remains the risk of thousands of redundancies across the industry and the urgent need for more financial support.

“The industry still needs extra financial support  – a special extension of the furlough scheme, continuing business rates relief, commercial rent relief, a delay in payment of Corporation Tax and a reduction in VAT on accommodation and meetings packages  – until Spring 2021 to keep businesses alive when we hope, the hammer blows will stop and business will hopefully return,” said Butler.