"What more does our industry have to do to be recognised?" HBAA slams chancellor's Budget
The Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA) has expressed its frustration with the chancellor’s Budget, which was unveiled, 3 March.
The trade association has accused the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, of ignoring the meetings and events industry in his annual Budget.
Simon Richards (pictured left), treasurer of HBAA and managing partner of Convenus said the sector needs specific support ahead of the impending recovery.
“There was £700m for arts and sporting institutions; £5bn in grants for shops, hospitality and leisure businesses, all Business-to-Consumer sectors,” he said. “Yet there was no mention of support for meetings, events and accommodation agencies or venues anywhere in the business-to-business sectors which have faced all the same issues of having to survive without any income until lockdown eases.”
Richard said that meetings and events businesses ought to be included in the £5bn retail, hospitality and leisure grants, and that the association would be seeking clarification on this, or an explanation if they are not.
“Agencies require widespread access to the grants already available, but our research found that 20% of our agency members had not been able to access any grants and less than half have received support from existing schemes,” he said.
Richards did, however, welcome the extension of the furlough scheme, as well as the continued rates relief and VAT reduction.
“These measures have been important to many agencies with 74% of them recently telling us that they wanted an extension to the furlough scheme and 48% requesting 100% rates relief,” Richard said. “However, many cannot benefit from the rates relief as they don’t have business premises, either through the nature of their work or because they have invested in technology.”
Insurance and apprenticeships
Richards said that event insurance is vital to restoring client confidence when it comes to booking events. “Event insurance is key to giving event organisers confidence to book,” he said. “We also require help to reduce and prevent further unemployment but there was no mention of it, although we welcome the increase in incentives to take on apprentices as our industry needs new talent for the future.”
Richards said he hoped for “better news” once the details in the chancellor’s Red Book is published, but added: “On the face of it, the neglect and lack of specific support for our industry is deeply disappointing. What more does our industry have to do to be recognised and appreciated at the highest levels of Government?”
Meetings Industry Association "underwhelmed"
The Meetings Industry Association (mia) said that it was underwhelmed with the Budget announcement, despite recognising the wide range of support measures being introduced with an intention of driving the UK’s economic recovery.
Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the mia, said: “While today’s budget does offer some immediate relief which we are grateful for, we are disappointed by the measures outlined by Rishi Sunak as it is clear the government does not appreciate the scale at which the sector has been impacted, nor the significant delay before business will return.
“Revenue losses for those operating within the sector have been harrowing, and as financial reserves have been necessarily depleted to compensate for restricted revenue generation, the foundations to make such contributions or simply re-open at any familiar capacity is currently not there.”
Longhurst said the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is optimistically expecting the UK economy to return to pre-Covid levels by the middle of next year. However, Longhurst said that the mia’s latest research has demonstrated that this is not true for the events sector and recovery is unlikely to be any sooner than 2023.
“At the same time, the sector will need to account for other increases such as the National Living Wage rise of 2.2% for basic rate workers to £8.91 an hour, even while these staff are still furloughed. This will have a huge impact on venues – as both front- and back-of-house support staff play a key role in ensuring their operations run efficiently,” she said.
“Meanwhile, according to our research our members have spent, on average, £41,113 to ensure their venues are Covid-Secure, so we sincerely hope that venues will qualify for the new Restart Grants of up to £18,000 designed to help businesses reopen and get going again.”
The association welcomed the extension of the furlough scheme, as well as other measures.