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Meetings Industry Association warns Government of permanent closures

The Meetings Industry Association has expressed concerns that Boris Johnson’s latest Tier 3 announcement will create further confusion about whether business meetings and events can continue.

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association warned that that Manchester having to close much of its business sets a precedent for further closures and restrictions across the UK and would lead to many venues closing permanently.

“The damage caused by today’s [20 October] announcement won’t be taken lightly by the industry, yet for Government this doesn’t appear to have been truly appreciated,” Longhurst said. “With consumer confidence already at an all-time low, matched with the typical long-lead time on substantial event bookings, we cannot now expect event organisers to be planning for events pre Q3 2021.

Longhurst lamented the lack of clarity. “Having come so close to large-scale events being permitted from October, we now appear to be looking at the other end of the scale, with venues once again left in the dark as to when significant business may be viable,” she added.

Longhurst noted that business events for up to 30 people may continue to run in all Tier areas, but while it serves as the only lifeline venues have at the moment, events of this size don’t come close to generating sufficient revenue.

She said: “While venues have been allowed to accommodate meetings for up to 30 people, such meetings don’t touch the surface in terms of revenue generation and contributions to venues’ significant operating costs. Despite this, it is the only option that many venues are left with as they desperately attempt to generate income as government continually neglect any interventions. It simply isn’t sustainable.”  

Longhurst added that additional restrictions may apply in Tier 3 areas after discussions with central and local government and advised venues to contact local authorities to determine what level of business is viable in their area.  

Longhurst pulled no punches when assessing the state of the events industry, which has been effectively been locked down since March 2020. “While government can express its desire to avoid national lockdown, our industry has been in lockdown since the beginning and there’s currently no indication that this will be changing any time soon,” she said, and added that she hopeful some manner of support package would be forthcoming. “The recent establishment of the Culture Recovery Fund, which provides a lifeline for many organisations in neighbouring sectors, provided us with optimism that our industry would finally receive its own tailored support package, however we continue to wait.

“Time isn’t running out; it has run out. We, alongside many of our neighbouring associations, organisations and industry professionals have worked tirelessly to demonstrate the devasting affects the collapse of our industry will have on the UK economy, and now it’s time we received the answers and acknowledgement we deserve.”  

Longhurst concluded by saying the association will continue to seek justice for the forgotten events industry. “We will be continuing to liaise with the government departments to seek these answers and at the same time will be encouraging the industry to write to local MPs to seek justice for the industry and its survival,” she said.