The Events Industry Board (EIB), the government’s advisory body to help improve and promote the UK’s Events sector held a conference call with Nigel Huddleston, the Minister for Sport, Tourism & Heritage on the 30th March, to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and to start considering a recovery plan.
The Minister acknowledged that COVID-19 presented the industry with significant challenges including the impact on a large number of jobs and the industry’s supply chain. The Minister also recognised the potential of the events industry and said it was an important part of the UK’s future.
Members advised that the government would need to work early and closely with the events industry on when it plans to loosen or lift social distancing/mass gathering restrictions. Members felt that the events industry would likely be one of the last activities to return to business as usual.
The challenges of a potential bottle-neck of events in the third and especially the final quarter of 2020 were discussed. During this period, it was probable that there may be more events to schedule than there are available, appropriate venues to accommodate these events or capacity and cash flow in the supply chain to deliver them.
The industry stressed that it relied on a healthy supply chain and reported these businesses were under severe pressure due to lack of liquidity and said that many might not survive.
Members recommended that the government create clear guidance for event venues that could be used to reassure consumers; they also recommended that the government develop clear, positive messages for domestic and international audiences, that the UK is safe and there were clear public health guidance for event venues/mass gatherings.
It was felt that as nations lifted restrictions, global competition would be fierce and there was a risk of losing major events to other countries who might be better prepared to return to business after the crisis. Members were also keen for VisitBritain to be funded so that it could promote the UK in market. Members said it is likely that in the initial phases of recovery, the domestic market would offer the biggest opportunities to generate events. It was also critical for the events industry and government to prioritise a list of major events that support key UK sectors/bring in considerable trade and investment and which the UK does not want to lose to international competition.
In reviewing an initial briefing paper on recovery initiatives, Members asked the government to consider a range of other options in support of the events industry including tax relief policies and funding measures to ensure that the UK does not lose its market share after the crisis.