Toby Heelis, founder of Eventopedia, says the events industry has been one of the most severely affected sectors by the pandemic so far and needs sector-specific government support.
"Events of all types have been postponed or cancelled altogether, impacting countless businesses, freelancers and employees in the supply chain," says Heelis.
"The UK’s event industry includes 25,000 business with more than 500,000 employees, and right now, assistance is crucial for the sector to overcome these challenging times."
After an online petition gained more than 150,000 signatures, the government responded by offering a series of measures that are also helping the events sector, and Heelis points out that the job retention scheme has played a big role in combating an increase in redundancies.
Other measures include a 12-month business rates holiday, business grants, as well as grants the self-employed income support scheme, relevant for the events sector due to its high number of freelancers.
"The events sector is an important part of our economy, playing a supporting role to all other sectors and facilitating growth," says Heelis.
"The industry is extremely diverse, so the challenges can also differ. The voices of businesses, freelancers and employees need to be heard as in the upcoming months, government support will continue to be essential."
The UK's chancellor Rishi Sunak is working on winding down the job retention scheme as part of the plan to gradually ease the lockdown measures.
Heelis says: "Scaling back the scheme could have a huge negative impact on the events sector unless the new measures differ among industries. While lockdown restrictions might gradually lift, it's unlikely that the events sector will be able to resume its operations yet, so government support will continue to be of paramount importance."
The future of events
Heelis says we’re still uncertain about what the future will look like, especially due to the fear of a second wave of coronavirus hitting in the winter, and with countless events postponed until Q3 or Q4 of 2020 and into next year.
"Other countries have started to relax some of the strict lockdown measures and are slowly reopening parts of the economy. Events, however, likely won't take place for a while. In China, the economy is slowly recovering, but people are still afraid.
"When events do eventually start taking place again, health and safety regulations will be paramount in reassuring attendees, in order to plan events that people will be willing to attend in the first place," says Heelis.
"The events industry will have to prove it can adapt quickly to the new situation. Organising an event several months ahead in these circumstances will require some changes in planning, as well as new policies for potential cancellations or postponements."
Heelis adds that another change starting to take place is an increase in virtual and hybrid events, which he believes will most likely continue even after we’ve overcome the pandemic.
"Venues, planners and other events-related businesses are rushing to upgrade their tech capabilities to accommodate virtual events, and these investments will bring advantages that will still apply in a post-COVID-19 world," he says.
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