Since the lockdown in March, events have stopped running as part of the efforts to fight the pandemic. Hopes for the return of Covid-safe events on the 1st October where dispelled by a postponement of a further six months or maybe longer. It’s now been seven months since event businesses have been able to trade and generate any income at all, putting entire sectors of the economy and livelihoods in danger. Long-established event businesses have already gone into administration and redundancies are happening across the industry with a prediction of approximately 90,000 jobs losses by November.
We appreciate the government’s focus on placing public health at the very heart of navigating this pandemic, this is why the events industry has been working together with the government to ensure public health remains our number one priority and created the “All Secure Standard”: the government’s approved guidelines to run events safely when they are allowed to return. As we continue to work together, we are now seeking to build public and business confidence so events can play their part in reigniting the economy.
Other countries around the world have embraced exhibitions and events as part of their economic recovery by either offering specific support packages or allowing venues to open with restrictions in place. While we remain closed with no specific support, we’re being placed in a huge international competitive disadvantage for the long-term and need help to stay afloat. Until last year, events generated £70bn to the UK economy (£11bn from exhibitions alone), and employed 600,000 people.
Olympia London contributes over £1.3 billion in economic activity each year to the London and wider UK economy directly and indirectly. Hospitality venues and retail outlets located near large venues like ours rely on us for their footfall and they too will be making redundancies. Trade fairs alone support 180,000 businesses across the economy that also rely on us to be able to run. Without an immediate and specific support package, our vibrant sector may soon not exist to play its part as a catalyst in the economic recovery.
As an industry, we are grateful to benefit from some of the government’s wider support packages such as the furlough scheme and upcoming Jobs Support Scheme. These are positive steps but mainly designed for businesses who are allowed to trade in a reduced capacity. Our sector, however, is now facing twelve months of not trading since the beginning of lockdown. It needs to be properly recognised by the government and supported with a specific package that provides:
• Tailored support for our industry’s workers on top of the new Job Support Scheme
• Enhanced Government grants and loans specific to the sector
• Government-backed insurance schemes specific to our sector to build client confidence
• Early clarity on when we can reopen
• Continuation of business rates relief programme
The events industry is instrumental in bringing people and businesses together to drive innovation, education and economic growth, in addition to helping millions of people to pursue their passions and vocations.
Bringing minds and businesses together is how we evolve as a society to advance knowledge and make opportunities available to all. This is what the events industry has been doing for centuries and will continue to do for centuries to come. The industry that contributes so much for this country now needs support to continue to play its part in our society.
Managing Director, Olympia London