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Meetings Industry Association and HBAA respond to Step 4 delay

The Meetings Industry Association (mia) and Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA) have raised concerns about the lack of assistance to the business meetings and events industry in the wake of the prime minister’s announcement to delay to Step 4 to 19 July.

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the mia, said the industry “understood the necessity” for the government to delay the move to Step 4 – the final stage of its roadmap – that would have seen the last of England’s restrictions lifted and the legal limits on social contact removed.

“Our view is that it is better to delay for four weeks rather than have an unsettling re-trenching further down the line – as has happened with the travel corridors that has seen countries such as Portugal being moved to the amber travel list with very little warning,” said Longhurst.

“With venues investing an average £41,113 in enhanced hygiene and infection control measures and securing accreditations such as AIM Secure to ensure their properties are safe, we know from the early results of the pilots that business meetings and events can operate safely, but we want to open and remain open without capacity restrictions when it is safe to do so.”

Longhurst added that the ongoing issue being faced by the industry is confidence to book and commit to contracting events. “We fully appreciate that any delay continues to fuel that uncertainty and is potentially going to damage confidence even further,” she said.

“The mia remains committed to its lobbying work and ongoing direct liaison with government to seek recognition and support in addressing the unique challenges faced by the business meetings and events sector.”  

Support

Juliet Price, consultant executive director of HBAA, the trade association for the meetings, events and accommodation industry, said that the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, “must treat meetings, events and accommodation sector businesses as a special exception” and extend the 80% furlough payment and business rates reduction until at least the end of July. Price noted that businesses in the sector need this to help them survive the four-week delay in reopening.

“While safety comes first, this delay comes just as CBILS repayments commence, business rates and rents are due, furlough payment contributions by employers are increasing and many staff are expected back from furlough,” she said.

“The HBAA is continuing to shine a light on our industry by highlighting what is a vital and unique cashflow issue. Unlike bars, restaurants and many other hospitality businesses that will immediately have extra cash in their tills as soon as they are fully open once more, many agencies and venues will have very little income until September or beyond before clients pay their invoices - but before then they will have to pay rent, rates and salaries for staff organising meetings and events. This comes on top of many months of delayed income from postponements and cancellations.”

Bookings on hold

Price noted that the postponement to 19 July is delaying the confirmation of hundreds of meetings and event bookings. She said that research carried out by Venue Performance for HBAA indicates that the average revenue expected between 21 June and the end of September for a London meetings and events venue is £500,000. 

“Speaking to HBAA members and contacts across the industry, we are being told that many event planners are waiting for the remaining restrictions to be lifted before they will sign contracts. This continued uncertainty is adding further pressure on their ability to plan their resources and finances,” she said.

Adam Simpson, is director of marketing at etc.venues, which has 17 properties around the UK said: “Keeping in touch with our clients about this, none of the them are planning to cancel events because of this delay, so we’re pleased with their confidence in us.

 “Our frustration is that we have £6m worth of business events provisionally contracted and waiting to be confirmed once the final stage of the roadmap is given the go-ahead. 

“We’re ready with safe venues - we just need the government to give customers the extra confidence by lifting the restrictions.