Devastating blow for meetings industry

By Bev Fearis, published 23/09/20

The meetings and events industry has suffered another devastating blow after the UK Government ruled conferences and exhibitions will not be allowed to run from October 1 and said the ban would be in place for ‘upwards of six months’.

Jane Longhurst, Chief Executive of the Meetings Industry Association said: “Without a clear re-opening date and no clear idea if there is going to be any support forthcoming, this industry has simply been hung out to dry.

“Organisers I have no doubt will already be cancelling their events for the next six months, which means a repeat of the cash-flow drain, experienced by venues and booking agents in the Spring.

“When we finally get the go ahead to re-open, it is going to take many, many months to re-build booker confidence and many years to see any form of recovery.

“Throughout the course of this pandemic the industry has worked hard to demonstrate the harrowing implications of its impending demise, calling upon urgent support where all forms of operations and revenue generation has been blocked by government.

“Venues have been tirelessly coordinating and implementing now redundant government plans, investing heavily depleted financial resources to ensure they have all the necessary requirements in place to ensure they are Covid-secure, and with today’s announcement we are simply not being respected – in fact it’s much worse than that – we have been simply ignored.

“The Prime Minister thought it much more relevant to comment about the lack of spectator sport than he did the thousands of jobs across the UK that are reliant on the business meetings and event sector.

"We already know that venues have averaged a £2,398,600 loss of business to date, but unlike other sectors, business meetings and events has only received the basic package of support. This is revenue that simply cannot be borne any longer. Venues will be closing; more jobs will be lost. We need financial support as quickly as possible – without it what hope does the industry have of saving the 140,000 jobs that are on the line at the end of the Furlough scheme.”

Lex Butler, Chair of HBAA, said the industry has been further decimated.

“Many of our agency and venue members have gone beyond or are at tipping point; they have had to make redundancies, they are unsure if their businesses can survive, many haven’t had any income for over six months. Financial reserves and overdrafts are exhausted, and this news will regrettably accelerate the inevitable.

“Whilst HBAA fully appreciates and supports the need for these tighter measures in the interests of the country’s fight back against the spread of Covid 19, we must receive substantial financial support without delay. We continue to campaign and lobby for additional financial support specifically for our sector, and we have to see action now if our businesses, and the industry, are to survive.”

The news came days after the publication of research, carried out at the start of September, which showed optimism in the sector, with nearly a third of UK event professionals saying they expected live events to return in the last three months of 2020.

They survey, undertaken at the UKickstart event held on September 8, found 32% of 1,419 event professionals had planned to run live events this year.