The Meetings Industry Association’s (mia) latest research reveals the business meeting and events sector has been decimated by the impacts of COVID-19 and is urgently calling on government intervention.
Compiled following its most recent insight request from the UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the research details the huge financial losses, which are largely uncovered by insurance, that have been endured by the industry.
Over a third of the 197 responding venues (34%) are reporting values between £1,000,000 and £5,000,000 for lost business as a result of COVID-19, with the average venue reporting this figure at £2,398,600.
Scaling this surveys’ findings to reflect the 700,000 employed within the industry, the trade association estimates there has been 126,000 total job losses to date, with catering, front-of-house and events/account managers being the roles most severely affected.
And the impact has gone much further than just the venues. Almost half (47%) have had to reduce, or request more flexible terms with their suppliers, while 7% are having to already source new ones because their regular pre-COVID-19 suppliers are no longer in operation.
Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the mia, says: “Despite events now being permitted for up to 30 people in COVID-secure venues, the industry is yet to see the green shoots of recovery.”
Both short- and long-term business enquiries continue to remain well below pre-COVID levels. A decline in consumer confidence has seen a decrease in Q3 2020 enquiries for 97% of venues compared to the previous year. On average, enquiries have decreased by a significant 78%, with 94% of venues also seeing a similar decline in Q4 2020, averaging a 75% decrease.
And, with quarantine measures in place that are subject to continual change, it is unsurprising that very few international enquiries are being reported.
While business meetings of up to 30 are permitted, the majority of venues currently remain closed. Most are planning to reopen in late Q3 and Q4 – with just 15% opting to wait until 2021. Yet, the sector is ready and feeling confident that having meticulously planned, it can reopen and operate safely to support the economy.
The findings show how the sector has quickly responded by adapting its offering – achieving accreditations and investing a median of £7,500 in safety measures that largely go above and beyond the government’s requirements – to ensure venues are COVID-secure.
“But we can’t do this alone,” says Longhurst. “To ensure the sector is able to survive and facilitate the £165billion of trade that takes place through business events, we need further support.”
She added: “As the furlough scheme comes to an end before many venues are able to reopen in October, and the sector estimates that it could take at least 12-18 months, if not longer, for it to recover to pre-COVID levels, government intervention is urgently required.
“Without an extension or a bespoke furlough scheme carrying through into 2021, job losses will continue. The research clearly indicates that almost a third (31%) state 0-5% of those currently on furlough will be made redundant if the scheme isn’t extended, so an average of 38% employees are expected to lose their jobs come the end of October. Scaling this up to the 700,000 employees within the industry, 266,000 job losses are forecast.
“With government intervention, including the extension of the furlough scheme and other support, 75% of venues indicate that this figure would be drastically reduced, with 140,000 jobs across the industry expected to be saved. The government therefore has a simple choice, to save jobs by offering an extension, or fund those individuals through benefits.”
To download a copy of the mia’s latest research that has been presented to DCMS to inform their recommendations to the Treasury, visit https://www.mia-uk.org/COVID-19-Recent-Industry-Findings.