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COVID-19 Leaves UK Event Industry Suppliers on Knife Edge

14 Apr 20203m read

Some 60% of the UK’s event industry’s supplier base is facing collapse within three months, unless event businesses receive further support from the Government, according to an on-line survey carried out by the Events Industry Forum (EIF) and Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP) and co-ordinated by the Production Services Association (PSA) between 3-7th April, 2020. 6% of those businesses say they are unlikely to survive until the end of April!

In all 1,490 businesses took part in the survey from across all sectors of the UK events industry.

The collapse of so many businesses would both impact the economy and result in unemployment for hundreds of thousands of people who work in the industry.  According to a study by Bournemouth University last year the outdoor event industry alone employs just under 600,000 people. Over 115,000 are estimated to work in the conference, exhibitions and indoor events sectors.

Many of those working in the outdoor industry are freelances or self-employed who rely on the summer season for the bulk of their income.   With most events this summer already cancelled, from Glastonbury and Edinburgh Festival to agricultural shows, many are facing a bleak 12 months before they will see further income, which could put more in jeopardy over the winter.

Similar circumstances exist within the business events sector where 74% of all conferences and exhibitions have been postponed to the last quarter of 2020 and the remainder cancelled altogether.

Despite the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicating in the House of Commons recently that event organisers and the supply network behind them should be eligible for leisure and hospitality business support grants, according to the survey most who have applied have been turned down by local authorities who are running the scheme.   Similarly, only 1% of respondents have been successful in applying for the Government backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

The supply line is vital to the continuity of the Industry, including contractors responsible for staging, temporary seating and structures, production lighting, exhibition stands, marquees, sanitation facilities and security barriers.

“With so many events already cancelled and no certainty about when they will be able to start again, our industry is on its knees,” says Jim Winship, Secretary of the Events Industry Forum which represents 26 organisations representing the outdoor events industry.   “We urgently need the Government to confirm to local authorities that all event organisers and suppliers to our industry are eligible for the hospitality and leisure grants – that will give an immediate lifeline for many.

“While it is starting to be recognised by some in Government circles that the event industry will be a key player in helping to kick-start the economy again, many will need on-going support until they can get back on their feet.  For this they will need further grants and better access to loans without having to give onerous personal guarantees.

“Our industry is one of the sectors that has been completely annihilated by this pandemic and needs urgent support if it is to survive.”

Michael Hirst OBE, Chairman of the Business Visits and Events Partnership said, “The UK has some of the best companies and contractors in the world supplying the needs of its events industry – an industry which will revitalise the Nation’s economy and communities when the crisis is over.  This survey clearly indicates that the UK is in danger of losing its capacity and expertise to stage world-class events. Hopefully its findings will underline the desperate need to provide more support to sustain the Industry’s suppliers and contractors until they can start operating again”.

The full survey results can be viewed at https://www.businessvisitsandeventspartnership.com/news/bvep-press-releases/790-a-report-into-the-prospects-for-the-events-industry-supply-chain-during-the-covid-19-industry-shutdown

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