'Business events can only recover with more government support'

More than half of UK venues may not break even when they reopen for business, according to Meetings Industry Association research.

The Meetings Industry Association (MIA) says that the majority (82%) of UK venues could operate with social distancing measures but will require continued government support.

This statement follows new MIA-led research into how business events can recover from the impact of COVID-19, urgently requested by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS).

The findings suggest that to reopen, 46% of venue operators would have to reduce their capacity by half. As a result, 59% of venues would not break even and 80% expect to lose more than half of their monthly turnover. 

The MIA says that this provides “a clear signal to the government” that additional support measures are required to help the sector recover quickly.

It has also asked for a phased reduction and extension of the government’s furlough scheme beyond 30 June 2020, without which 38% of venues say that more than half of their workforce will be made redundant. According to the data, this equates to approximately 1,953 redundancies. 

Organised events such as conferences, exhibitions and business meetings should not fall under the World Health Organisation’s term of ‘mass gatherings’, according to Jane Longhurst, chief executive of MIA.

“Unlike larger unorganised gatherings, we can put multiple measures in place to manage the flow and track and trace the attendees in our venues, for example, while ensuring that public health requirements are adhered to," said Longhurst.

“Without a distinction being made between ‘mass gatherings’ and ‘organised events’, our recovery will be significantly affected when the lockdown restrictions are eased.”

The MIA has offered to work with the government to ensure that all public health measures are embedded into the industry’s standard legal compliance criteria and adhered to.

“Crucially, the government needs to put in place a public confidence campaign to support the sector,” added Longhurst. 

“As we slowly come out of lockdown, it is imperative that clear measures are put in place to initially allow the industry to build buyer confidence with smaller meetings, seminars and training, to demonstrate how amazing events can still happen even in an environment of social distancing.”

The research was based on the results of a survey carried out by 918 venues employing more than 200 people and was supplied to the Social Distancing Commission on Friday 1 May.

You can download the full MIA report here.

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