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Gorazd Čad

THE SLOVENIAN MEETINGS INDUSTRY SQUELCHED BY COVID-19

The Slovenian meetings industry employs over 11.000 people. These are employees of companies that are part of the Slovenian Convention Bureau; destinations, event agencies, hotels, catering companies and everyone else, whose main source of income depends on organising events, conferences, congresses etc. In addition, around 20.000 creatives and small business owners depend on the meetings industry; musicians, moderators, designers, photographers, interpreters and many others.

Looking at the survey that Kongres Magazine carried out last week, on average, every meeting planner in Europe has had to cancel 7,86 events and postpone 9,59. There are two main event seasons in Slovenia, spring and autumn. This year, the spring season that usually lasts from March until June has already been lost. Based on a pessimistic projection of daily revenue of the entire Slovenian event industry, we are losing a minimum of 970.000 EUR in income every day.

Events usually take place on working days and if we calculate the loss in March alone, it sums up to 21 million EUR. If we look at the entire spring season from March until June 2020, the loss in profits is 85 million EUR or even more if you take into account the multiplier effects of this industry.

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A BEAM OF HOPE

The situation is changing every hour and everything is highly unpredictable. One thing is clear. We certainly won’t be organising events until the summer. Among the first to feel the effects were meeting planners and our suppliers; hotels, venues, catering companies, transport companies and airlines. Hotel Union and Cankarjev Dom have closed their doors and I don’t think that has ever happened before. Everyone is doing their best to handle the situation and most of us are working from home. Some have already been laid off and some have been put on hold. The longer the uncertainty, the greater the unemployment we can expect. Event production has come to a complete halt and external collaborators, who are mostly small business owners are also indirectly in danger. We try to stay in touch with them and help as best as we can.

THE INITIATIVE

Together with our industry colleagues, we came up with a civil initiative encouraging the Slovenian government to help save our beloved meetings industry. The main idea was to propose measures that would alleviate some of the negative consequences of cancelling events. We formed a petition that evoked quite a lot of interest among our colleagues. We are, of course, aware that the government won’t be able to act on all fields, but our petition pointed out some of the biggest challenges that we are facing in these strange times.

1. In our opinion, the most important measure is the exemption of obligatory welfare payments and income tax for small business owners and other legal entities during the ban of holding events. Taking the nature of event planning into consideration, we suggest all measures take effect for 6 months, or until the (re)start of the autumn event season.

2. As events have been planned months in advance, we proposed the freezing of financial obligations from the past fiscal month, including the penalty interest for all legal entities working in the field of event organisation. After the pandemic is over, repayment of obligations is made possible in instalments if the event has been postponed or exempt if the event has been cancelled.

3. We also proposed the freezing of expenses connected to the ban of organising events that include insurance payments, refunds and costs of cancellations. We want this measure to be taken under consideration by commercial banks and insurance companies, which are usually very conservative when it comes to such matters.

4. We are glad that the Slovenian government will help small business owners with the new anti-corona legislative package, but we think they should also provide direct help for those, who suddenly lost their jobs. If they made less than the net minimum salary this month, the government should cover the difference.

All measures from the petition are listed below.

We hope that the government listens to our SOS and considers our proposed measures. This would allow companies to maintain their greatest capital, employees. Not being able to organise events, most of us will see our income dry out. Some won’t be able to cover salaries and will have to give employees the pink slip, drastically affecting unemployment.

I am certain that our industry will get back on its feet soon. We, humans, are social beings and we can’t last long without events. That is embedded in our DNA. Just like music, events are a universal language. Ask yourself, what is more exciting, listening to a live concert or an album through your headphones? There is a time and a place for both, but nothing can replace the energy that is shared at events. That energy is priceless and it is the reason why we won’t be throwing in the towel. The spring event season 2020 is lost, but we are certain that the need for face-to-face events will be sky high when the crisis is over. Reservations for events in the autumn are a clear indicator of that.

The editorial board of Kongres Magazine is proud to be part of this initiative and we will do our best to provide you with the most up-to-date information on the topic.

An urgent appeal to the Slovenian government

Help preserve the meetings industry with the following measures

1. Fast and decisive measures to amortize the economic and social shock of the crisis in the field of event organisation.

2. Exemption of obligatory welfare payments and income tax for small business owners and other legal entities during the ban of holding events.

3. Exemption of obligatory welfare payments for small business owners, who will make less than 20.000 EUR in 2020.

4. Freezing rent and loan payments for everyone, who depends on event organisation as their main source of income.

5. Exemption of expenses connected to the ban of organising events that include insurance payments, refunds and costs of cancellations.

6. Covering 80% of the salaries of employees, who were put on wait, just like other EU countries have already implemented.

7. Direct help for those, who suddenly lost their jobs. If they made less than the net minimum salary this month, the government should provide help and cover the difference.

8. Freezing financial obligations from the past fiscal month, including penalty interest for all legal entities working in the field of event organisation. After the pandemic is over, repayment of obligations is made possible in instalments.

9. Taking the nature of event planning into consideration, we suggest all measures take effect for 6 months, or until the (re)start of the autumn event season.

A CALL FOR HELP from the people who signed our petition

“I’ve lost all my projects overnight. I am reinventing myself all over again.”

“Our agency New Moment will lose ¾ of its profits between March and June because of the situation.”

“We have lost all business, events are 100% cancelled, we don’t know how and where to find money to cover employee salaries.”

“I am signing this petition with the hope that the Slovenian government implements these important measures and helps our industry, which has been contributing to the recognisability of Slovenia for years. I am signing this petition because I care about our future. I am signing this petition because I believe that we can beat the crisis by joining forces and coming together.”

“I organise business events and we had 3 major conferences booked until June, which represent 7 months of salaries. I am the only employee “fortunately”. For 8 years, I have been creating turnover, paying taxes and welfare payments and I am not a tax debtor. Now, I won’t even be able to pay out a salary to myself, because there won’t be any events until September. The fallout of revenue will last a minimum of 6 months. As a small business owner and a single parent, I don’t know how I will be able to pay off my financial obligations. How do I move forward?”

“I have been working in tourism for 34 years and I am the owner of a small boutique hotel. Tourism was the first sector to be affected by the outbreak and the people working in tourism will carry the worst consequences. With appropriate measures, 5.600 jobs will be at risk and over 700.000 million EUR will be lost if the crisis doesn’t last even longer. Without sufficient help, our industry will be destroyed for a very long time and that will drastically affect the social, cultural and economic image of Slovenia.”

“I am signing because the situation has gotten serious. Without help from the government, most companies and small business owners won’t make it. The fact is that serious cash flow in our industry will only start happening in one year or later. Events have to be planned months or years in advance and international associations won’t even dream about organising an event in the next 6 months. When they do start thinking about events, another few months will go by until the first real confirmations and cash inflow start happening. Without help and a financial obligation exemption, we will become the “victims” of our own employees, as we won’t be able to pay out salaries without cash flow. This can result in mass bankruptcy. It’s certainly better to help companies stay alive and keep their employees than having to pay compensation for the unemployed. I hope the government listens to us.”

Update: THERE IS LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

At yesterday’s marathon session, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia implemented a “mega-package” of intervention measures that address most of our requests. We are still waiting for the details in the form of concrete legislation, but so far, these measures instil a lot of optimism and hope.