COVID-19: The events industry’s next steps

COVID-19 has had a massive impact on the events industry – but while we can’t change the fact the pandemic has happened, it’s our response which will shape the sector’s future.

The next steps are crucial in deciding how the industry will change and progress, as the business world gradually comes back to life following the relaxation of some of the lockdown restrictions. When lockdown began, industry insiders described the events sector as having gone into “shock mode”.

All events, conferences and meetings had to be cancelled to conform to the restrictions. Some businesses had to close down altogether and furlough staff, while others had personnel working from home and communicating by video conferencing.

© Right 3 / Adobe Stock

Getting back on track
Now, businesses are looking to get back on track, while still following government guidelines. The hospitality industry can be a complex one, as it involves a diverse selection of businesses, including venue hire, catering, hotels, travel and a multitude of corporate clients.

Industry leaders say their situation hasn’t been helped by the fact the government has seemed “confused” about the sector and hasn’t offered any specific advice during the pandemic. They also feel there hasn’t been enough support for the small businesses involved in the supply chain.

While venues have been protected to a degree by the furlough scheme, many suppliers are self-employed and have received considerably less practical support, according to trade association the Business Visits and Events Partnership.

The organisation is currently working to persuade the government to recognise that the sector’s supply chain needs more support going forward. It points to the aid available in Hong Kong, where the government has provided small and medium-size businesses with funding specifically to promote themselves at industry trade shows.

Denmark has followed suit by providing funding specifically for events, but so far, the British government hasn’t done anything in particular for the sector that recognises the challenges it’s facing.

What are the next steps?
Despite the lack of government support to date, industry chiefs say there’s confidence that the events sector will be booming again, particularly since 74% of events have been postponed until the final quarter of 2020. Around 80% of annual events that would normally take part all year round will be taking place in this quarter.

It is anticipated this will kick-start the industry again, as venue bookings have already been made well in advance as companies prepare to return to some form of normality. While face-to-face meetings haven’t been taking place as a result of the lockdown, there’s already talk of a shortage of meeting venues by the end of the year.

It’s likely we’ll see more internal events happening first in the corporate sector, as businesses start planning how to move forward after the pandemic. Following this, conferences are set to follow. It is believed that exhibitions will find it more difficult to bounce back, as they involve more people and planning.

Corporate business looks set to recover quickest, with planning, internal training and business strategies being the main topics of discussion.

Benefits of a live event
While virtual meeting space has kept many organisations going during lockdown, it can never replace the experience of attending a live event. Virtual meetings look set to continue to a degree in the future, but we love interacting with each other in person. A live event provides an unrivalled platform for networking and collaboration.

The buzz of a busy and productive meeting isn’t something we can achieve on a laptop, or in the office. Being present in a designated meeting space, sharing ideas and socialising with like-minded people, is integral to the continued growth of the business world.

While live events will change, at least for the foreseeable future, as we make sure we’re practicing the relevant safety procedures; there’s a positive element to being more aware of people’s personal space and respecting boundaries, which is something we can carry forward.

Being conscious of our surroundings and everyone’s health and wellbeing can become an advantage to us all in terms of moving on from these challenging times.

Get the ball rolling
&Meetings has a wide choice of affordable meeting rooms and training rooms in London, which are available for future bookings as the event industry gathers pace. Call us now on 0800 073 0499 to hire your meeting room and prepare for the busy times ahead.

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