The Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP) has held an online meeting of its partners and representatives from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) to share feedback and issues surrounding COVID-19 and to look at practical ways in which the government can continue to support the UK’s £70bn business events sector during the current COVID-19 pandemic, and help aid its recovery.
The meeting follows the BVEP’s recent announcement that the industry could lose up to £50bn of revenue in the first six months of 2020 along with thousands of jobs.
Michael Hirst OBE, Chair, BVEP said: “It is more important than ever that the entire industry works together and communicates with one clear and united voice. It is a very difficult time for our industry, but the BVEP is talking with all parts of Government on a daily basis and is there to provide as much support as possible and act as its collaborative voice. We are ensuring our website is updated daily with the latest government advice and want to reiterate that we are there for all of our industry friends and colleagues.”
Throughout the meeting, each partner organisation was given the opportunity to highlight issues they were facing in their particular sector, and to share these with the DCMS team and the rest of the partnership.
The common issues and concerns that were raised and discussed, included:
- The need for clarity and parity from UK Government on the initiatives and support packages currently being offered to those in the industry
- Events industry recognition – the industry needs to be specifically recognised in Government announcements and documents. Currently, there is considerable concern that many of the support proposals do not include events (business and leisure) within the leisure and hospitality proposals
- Rates relief – particularly in terms of the rates relief proposals. Many local authorities refusing to accept that event venues – particularly exhibition and conference centres – are included in the business rates relief package offered to hospitality and leisure businesses
- Further support for freelancers, self-employed, supply chain – the UK Government recently announced a scheme to support the self-employed and freelancers, where it will pay 80% of profits up to £2,500 a month as current tax deferral and universal credit measures are insufficient to compensate for lost income.
- Cash flow and liquidity – the UK Government proposal for guaranteed businesses loans – business owners in some cases are being asked to provide personal guarantees and business plan for the debt. That commitment is proving too onerous for taking the business grant on.
- Survival of trade associations – a number of associations discussed a rise in a number of members either failing to pay for their membership or no longer afford the fees. The role of trade bodies is essential at this time.
- Duration of measures – providing confidence for the eventual recovery. Messaging needs to be improved about how long social distancing measures will be in place to enable longer-term planning for recovery to be realistic and not wasteful of limited resources. The UK Government will need to work closely with the events industry and recognise that the sector won’t really be able to function until all measures are reversed. Undoubtedly there will need to be a kick start package or special incentive measures as the sector will be working from a zero business base.
- Guaranteed loan and job retention schemes – specific questions about the detailed workings of the guaranteed loan and job retention schemes have been forwarded to HMT via DCMS Officials. Many issues around the furloughing of staff and the use of furloughed staff on a volunteer and part-time basis.
- A last quarter business surge –74% of events scheduled for the first half of the year are being postponed until the second half of the year, resulting in a potential bottleneck of problems including shortage of suitable venues, capacity and supply lines
Following the meeting, the concerns were shared with the Tourism Industry Emergency Response (TIER) Group and the Tourism Industry Council, which is attended by the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, Nigel Huddleston MP, who also sits on the UK Government’s COBRA committee.