The global pandemic has had a huge negative effect on the global events industry and all its stakeholders, from venues, suppliers of key services such as catering, as well as countless freelancers in the industry.
In the UK, the events industry generated £70bn of direct spend in 2019 alone, according to the latest report by BVEP. The sector is clearly an important part of the country’s economy, also supporting other industries in their growth.
Adapting to a post-lockdown landscape
Despite the huge hit delivered by the global pandemic, the hospitality sector is preparing to restart its activities, as lockdown restrictions are gradually lifting. Undoubtedly, the hospitality sectors will recover, but the road to recovery will depend on both government support and their own levels of adaptability to change and uncertainty.
When the pandemic first hit, the industry wasn’t prepared.
Now, we all have a collective duty to look ahead and plan accordingly. We’re facing a potential second wave, while still struggling to get the first wave under control. For events, which are planned months in advance, this means we need to acknowledge the uncertainty that lies ahead, if we want to prepare effectively.
To minimise further financial damage, businesses across the hospitality industry will need to put adequate policies in place, taking into considerations issues such as postponing events, last-minute changes to comply with updated regulations, or cancellations due to the coronavirus.
Learning to operate in the new landscape will be an ever-evolving process, so flexible businesses will perform best.
The return to normal activities for the hospitality sector depends on keeping the infection rate low. Thus, as soon as they reopen, the main priority of all events-related businesses will be minimising the risk of infection for attendees and staff. This will involve staff training, staying up to date with best practices, and implementing all safety measures dictated by the relevant authorities.
On-site hygiene will need to be carefully monitored, with regular sanitising of surfaces, and effective communication of safety measures and requirements to attendees. Venues will also need to modify the configuration of the event space to minimise crowding, designate isolation areas etc. Other measures include thermal scanning, online registration to reduce queues, offering masks and gloves, and many more.
Catering will also need to adapt, replacing any buffet options with safer alternatives for full meals, and ensuring finger foods are individually packaged to avoid exposure to the virus, or offering other such suitable options.
All these precautions can initially seem overwhelming, so an important potential component of the post-lockdown hospitality landscape might be relevant accreditations. The newly announced AA’s Covid Confident Scheme as well as the Safe Event Scheme are good examples, helping businesses operate safely and ensuring the implementation of best practices in terms of COVID-19 safety measures.
Assuaging public concerns will be vital for a fast recovery of the industry, and consumers will be more likely to attend an event with the Safe Event Scheme accreditation and a restaurant that is Covid Confident.
For now, businesses are doing the best they can to stay on their feet until these challenging times pass. For event professionals, that mainly means getting comfortable with virtual events as a means to generate revenue, especially as hybrid events will become a new norm once we overcome the pandemic.
In the meantime, however, the absence of regular events has had a direct impact on all event suppliers, such as catering businesses, or venues such as hotels or restaurants etc., for whom in-person events are a significant source of income. And while they’re also expanding their activities as much as possible to adapt to the social distancing (i.e. catering businesses going into meal prep kits, take-out meals etc.), it’s not enough to compensate for the losses.
Government support has been – and will continue to be – crucial for the hospitality sector until the economy can once again operate in a normal way. The government is implementing its roadmap to restarting the economy, and businesses are gradually reopening. However, due to social distancing measures, the events industry will most likely be slow to start recovering, and government measures will need to take this into consideration.
In the past months, the Job Retention Scheme has been vital, and from August, businesses will also be able to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part-time basis, while still receiving assistance from the scheme. For these cases, employees will need to contribute a percentage to the salary of the furloughed staff.
Other helpful measures include 12-month business rates holiday, as well as various grants for businesses and freelancers.
Soon, hospitality businesses will be able to start recovering, even if we need more time until full-scale events can take place again. Flexibility and adaptability to change are inherent traits of the hospitality sectors, and we’re confident that we will keep seeing businesses apply these traits successfully, leading to an effective recovery of the industry.
By Toby Heelis, CEO of events company Eventopedia