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Time to start planning! Eventprofs welcome PM’s roadmap

“Thank you Boris”: three words that have not been heard much from event professionals in the last year.

However, the prime minister’s clear consideration for the events sector in the four step roadmap to reopening in England has been largely welcomed around the industry – albeit with some caveats.

“The Government has provided a clear path for the sector alongside the ‘four tests’,” said Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the mia. “The strong correlation between reopening dates being provided, consumer confidence and subsequent enquiries is something that has been well-documented throughout our lobbying efforts, so the clear intention to reopen for events to a maximum of 1,000 as early as 17 May and large-scale events as early as 21 June, provides us with optimism that business will start to return in some capacity as early as Q2.”

Longhurst added that any changes to the roadmap must be communicated early – and that further support, such as an extension of the furlough scheme or business rates relief packages in the forthcoming budget, would be required.

“Considering the sector’s gear-up and long lead times, it will be critical that they communicate progress clearly during the next four months to ensure venues can prepare for any form of reopening and any date changes,” she said.

“We remain acutely aware of the vulnerability of many organisations within the sector, as our latest research has shown almost half forecast their organisation will become unviable by June 2021*. It is therefore paramount that intermedial support is provided to ensure that organisations cannot just prepare for reopening but survive up until the outlined return date.

She also called for an extension in the VAT reduction as well as the introduction of government-backed insurance schemes, mitigating the challenges around consumer confidence.

Confidence is vital

Echoing the need to boost confidence, Michael Begley, managing director of venuedirectory.com, said: “Thank you Boris, a clear roadmap is what we wanted and needed to put our industry on the destination to recovery – now we have one.

“There are still lots of hurdles to get over and, of course, we all want it all sooner and faster, but a slower but permanent solution is better than yo-yo-ing in and out of restrictions and lockdowns.

“What is vital now that we have these dates is that the whole industry is united in ensuring that we give corporate event planners the confidence to book live and hybrid events for Q3 and Q4 this year.”

The Event Industry Alliance (EIA), comprising the Event Supplier and Services Association, (ESSA), the Association of Event Venues (AEV), and the Association of Event Organisers (AEO), gave the roadmap more of a mixed review.

A spokesperson for the EIA said, “The inclusion of events in the latter stages of the reopening roadmap is a welcome development and we are confident that we will be able to further demonstrate our ability to deliver Covid-secure events in the pilot the government has announced.

“But in his Budget next week, Rishi Sunak must provide targeted support for the exhibitions sector to save it from total collapse. Event industry businesses need support for as long as restrictions are in place, a clear roadmap to reopen, and a government-backed insurance scheme otherwise devastating job losses and business failures are coming.”

Time to start planning

Site GB president Elliott Grant also welcomed the news while sounding a note of caution. He said: “It’s great news that the government has given us an indication that we can start to look seriously at travel again from the summer. For companies this means they can start to reignite their incentive programmes and of course, for agencies we can start to plan again.

“From a supply and demand angle, a boom in leisure bookings is going to increase rates and decrease availability across the globe which is something that companies need to be aware of when starting to plan their trips – long story short, to get the best rates in the best places, the sooner we start planning, the better!”

Paul Martin, MD of events agency Parallel Blue, said: “While we have of course experienced a significant downturn in live events and travel generally, we are very confident that the market will begin to bounce back during 2021. Given both the excellent vaccination progress being made and the announcement of an official UK roadmap to ‘normality’, we believe events and travel planning will now begin again in earnest.

“Starting with smaller domestic-based group events in the summer, we then anticipate that larger events and overseas travel will be happening again towards the end of the year.”

Financial support

Juliet Price, consultant executive director of HBAA, welcomed the roadmap and echoed the view that urgent financial support is needed for businesses to survive.

“The government roadmap is a welcomed indication of when we should see the reopening of the meetings, events and accommodation sector. We now have dates for all of us to work towards and to plan the rebuilding and recovery of this
resilient industry.

“We are also very pleased to see that pilot schemes are scheduled and will explore changes to social distancing measures, as this area is proving truly challenging when considering the viability of future meetings and events.

“These dates alone are not enough for the survival of some businesses. Our immediate concern is ensuring that our hard-hit industry receives specific and crucial financial support in next week’s Budget to aid its recovery, including the
continuation of furlough, rates relief for 2021/2022, reduction in VAT and an extension of grants to businesses.

“Many will not see the benefit of reopening dates for meetings, events and accommodation as an instant fix, but more of a first step towards earning future income after 12 months of having none at all, and a pathway to ensuring our people can return to employment.”

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