The chair of the Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP), Simon Hughes, has suggested that the government’s guidance for the events industry could be released on 13 June, although this is subject to it being signed off by Downing Street.
Speaking on Hire Space Presents, 11 June, Hughes noted the positive collaboration between the trade associations, such as the Meetings Industry Association and the Association of Event Organisers, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). However, he went on say that extending support measures, such as the furlough scheme, would be necessary to save the industry even before a start date is confirmed.
On the forthcoming government guidance, Hughes said: “We are hopeful that this guidance, in terms of giving instructions on how to run events and when we can reopen and can start trading again, might be available at sometime next week. 13 June was the date we were working to.
“This is of course subject to final sign off for approval by Number 10 and various other people, so we can’t guarantee it, but its what we are hoping for.”
Comparing the UK’s attitude to the guidance compared with other countries, Hughes noted that some governments have been “quite restrictive” and insisted on their own government approved standards. The UK, he says, is taking a different route. Hughes explained: “We [the UK] are going down a different track. The top line advice is based on best practise and public health, and things that businesses will need to consider which will be common across lots of businesses as we try and turn the economy back on.
“The guidance includes expert advice and options prepared by some of the leading trade associations in the UK. We don’t yet know when the restart date might be, but we have made the point clear that we need to know well in advance if we are going to be inviting people and marketing to either business-to-business or business-to-consumer audiences, so that remains a challenge.”
Hughes noted that the guidance formed a large document, containing more than 30 links to further resources.
On the subject of extended measures to protect the industry, Hughes said that it goes beyond simply keeping businesses going, but that the existing social distancing rules would make many events unviable. He said: “In the context of social distancing, we are going to need more help for a longer period of time than many of us thought at the beginning.
“For example, at the request of the DCMS, we have submitted evidence from all of our partner organisations about the impact social distancing is having. At 2m, if it stays the rule, most of the businesses we have heard from say it would only give them 25-30% capacity of venue space, which is not enough and would see massive losses.
“At 1.5m it is marginally better, you can increase your capacity up to 40%. If we drop to 1m then a venue on average can run at 60% capacity, and at that point it begins to suggest you might be able to break even.
“If we don’t get a change in the social distancing rules, we will need the furlough scheme for a longer period of time in the events sector. Festival organisers are already saying the year is done, there is nothing there, which will stay will them for the rest of the calendar year.
“We need help, there is no doubt about it. What that will require is a concerted and focused effort in identifying the economic impact. What is it we bring, what is it we are going to lose, how much is that value and how does that impact all the attempts we are going to need to resurrect our economy? That economic argument will have to be made very fully, consistently and backed up by empirical evidence.”
Hughes also touched on the government’s quarantine measures, which now require anyone arriving in the UK to self-isolate for 14 days. Even smaller conferences, noted Hughes, could potentially feel significant impact if so much as 10% of the event’s delegates or speakers weren’t able to attend.”