60% of UK event suppliers could fold within three months

A further six per cent said they are unlikely to make it to the end of April, as coronavirus takes it toll on the industry.

Around 60% of suppliers to the UK's event industry are facing collapse within three months unless event businesses receive further support from the government. Of those businesses, 6% said they are unlikely to make it to the end of April.

That's according to an online survey carried out by the Events Industry Forum (EIF), Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP) and Production Services Association (PSA) between 3-7 April.

Within the business events sector, 74% of all conferences and exhibitions have been postponed to the last quarter of 2020 and the remainder cancelled altogether.

“With so many events already cancelled and no certainty about when they will be able to start again, our industry is on its knees,” said Jim Winship, secretary of the Events Industry Forum.

“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.

Only 1% of respondents had been successful in applying for the government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. And the majority of respondents said they had been turned down for leisure and hospitality business support grants by local authorities who run the schemes.

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 freelancers 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 difficult time before they will see further income.

“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," added Winship.

"For this they will need further grants and better access to loans without having to give onerous personal guarantees."

BVEP's chairman Michael Hirst OBE, said: "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 findings of the survey echo the sentiment of HBAA's chair Lex Butler, who said recently: “Commercial rent relief is urgently needed to sustain the life of many agencies and venues now and in next few months.”

“With payments being unacceptably withheld and Government funding delayed, as I feared, many are in danger of not surviving this crisis.

“We welcome the Chancellor’s recent announcement that lenders will no longer be able to request personal guarantees for loans under £250,000 and were delighted to hear at the end of last week from the Local Government Association that conference and exhibition venues are specifically listed in a Government paper covering Business Rates Relief.

"Along with the Business Travel Association (BTA) we’re still pushing to have business/events agencies who work from offices as opposed to high street premises recognised as part of the leisure and hospitality sector and therefore entitled to the business grants of £10-£25K related to Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR) and rateable values."

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

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