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Meetings Industry Association welcomes restart date, but says venues still need help

The Meetings Industry Association (mia) has welcomed the prime ministers’ consideration for the events sector in the roadmap to reopening. 

Addressing the House of Commons, 22 February, the prime minister revealed his roadmap out of lockdown, which he said was contingent on “data, not dates”, and targets 21 June as the earliest point at which events will be able to run without restrictions. Some restricted events could be permitted to take place from 17 May.

Jane Longhurst (pictured), chief executive of the association, said that throughout the course of the pandemic, she has been calling for greater recognition of the sector and welcomed what she described as the “clear inclusion” of events within the roadmap.

“The Government has provided a clear path for the sector alongside the ‘four tests’ which is exactly what we have been demanding for so many months,” she said.

“The strong correlation between reopening dates being provided, consumer confidence and subsequent enquiries is something that has been well-documented throughout our lobbying efforts, so the clear intention to reopen for events to a maximum of 1,000 as early as 17 May and large- scale events as early as 21 June, provides us with optimism that business will start to return in some capacity as early as Q2.”

The Government will be reviewing its reopening plan throughout the four re-opening phases, and Longhurst said that considering the sector’s gear-up and long lead times, it will be “critical” that they communicate progress clearly during the next four months to ensure venues can prepare for any form of reopening and any date changes.

Financial support

Longhurst said that venues would now re-evaluating their reopening plans on the back of the announcement, but noted tough financial challenges remained a lingering threat. “However, amidst the intended promise, we must remain conscious of the sector’s biggest challenges, of which many are far from resolved and are still in desperate need of intervention,” said Longhurst.

“We remain acutely aware of the vulnerability of many organisations within the sector, as our latest research has shown almost half forecast their organisation will become unviable by June 2021*. It is therefore paramount that intermedial support is provided to ensure that organisations cannot just prepare for reopening but survive up until the outlined return date.

“The majority of the sector has made it very clear that an extension of the furlough scheme is required not just until they are able to re-open but to support them as they re-grow their business throughout 2021. They also need the chancellor’s forthcoming budget to offer business rate relief packages providing an extension as well as greater eligibility for those who have been denied this support to date.”

Longhurst said the Meetings Industry Association will continue to lobby for greater inclusion of supply chain business, sole traders and freelancers within the current support available. They will also be calling for an extension in the VAT reduction as well as the introduction of government-backed insurance schemes, which Longhurst said was important for “mitigating the monumental challenges that persist around consumer confidence.”