The UK’s events industry is worth £42.3 billion and employs over 570,000 people. With 1.3 million business events at over 10,000 venues attracting over 85 million attendees annually, the UK’s event industry would take a lot to be ground to a halt. Enter Boris Johnson and his announcement to transition the country into the ‘delay phase’ of the four-stage coronavirus prevention plan.
According to leading exhibition stand designers, Quadrant2Design, the events industry will take a huge hit from the coronavirus outbreak. Although confident that they are well equipped to cope, they worry for businesses who don’t have the financial security necessary to survive.
Many of the businesses involved in the supply chain are SMEs and do not have a crisis management plan in place to deal with these scenarios. Increasing staff sickness levels, forced office closures, hysteria and panicked clients would have had an effect on the industry on their own. The forced cancellation of large events will have a detrimental impact on the industry. Those involved in the supply chain should prepare for a tough few years ahead.
COVID-19 is having a significant impact on industries, with over 250,000 people infected worldwide. The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China back in December 2019 and has since spread globally. As the strand of coronavirus spreads it has caused panic with people being forced into quarantine and stripping supermarket shelves bare. Although COVID-19 is likely to affect all of us in the short term, the impact it has on certain industries will be detrimental.
When the coronavirus was first detected in the UK, the government made the decision to implement the first phase of a four-stage action plan. The Containment Phase was intended to detect and isolate any cases that came into the country.
As the number climb, the realisation set in that we don’t have the facilities to control a mass quarantine. Individuals were being asked to self-isolate at home as a precautionary measure. One of the problems with this was that individuals weren’t offered financial compensation, therefore they chose to go about their daily routines before the recommended two weeks was over.
It was at this point that we started seeing the virus spread across the UK. The total number of people infected rose from just 36 to 3,269 in twenty days. It was clear that the government’s attempts to detect and isolate each case had not been effective. The UK moved from the containment phase to the delay phase.
Moving to the delay phase is what is going to hit industries the hardest. This phase accepts that a widespread outbreak is likely, but attempts to delay it. This virus has hit us during a busy time for our NHS, delaying the outbreak until summer would ease the tension. It also gives us more time to develop and test a vaccine.
The delay phase involves isolating early cases to avoid the spread and goes as far as school closures, restricting public transport and banning large public events. Large global brands and small businesses will feel the effects as they trickle down the events supply chain.
Across the globe, many large public events were cancelled or postponed at the event organisers discretion, including Dublin’s St Patrick’s Day Parade and the Six Nations final match. This comes despite reports from the BBC suggesting that there were no intentions to cancel or postpone sporting events in the UK.
Mobile World Congress (MWC) was cancelled amid fears that one of over 109,000 visitors or 2,400 exhibitors would be a carrier of COVID-19. The event, as with many other trade shows, attracts visitors from almost 200 countries. As some countries are currently dealing with a coronavirus outbreak, MWC had to put the health and safety of their exhibitors, staff and attendees first.
We can expect to see 100,000 events cancelled each month until the restriction is lifted. Even without enforced cancellation, travel is becoming increasingly difficult between the affected areas. So far we have travel bans, national lockdowns and limited use of public transport.
This is not the type of situation that the UK is well prepared to deal with. The infrastructure to care for and maintain an entire population that is under quarantine is not there. The government’s four-stage plan aims to keep the British population healthy. Delaying the outbreak gives everyone more time to adjust, and takes the pressure off of the NHS. These measures may be necessary to prevent an epidemic, however, the aftermath will leave the country in a critical condition.
The impact this will have on the events industry will be detrimental. Businesses will be forced to close, leaving thousands of people without employment.
Planning an event involves multiple companies, large and small. It isn’t just the event organisers that should expect to see a change. Venues, destination marketing organisers, exhibition contractors, suppliers and more will be affected.
It is estimated that 35% of the UK’s visitor economy comes from event attendees. This includes sporting events, music events and festivals. Exhibitions, trade shows and conferences are valued at £20.9 billion alone.
The effects of the UK’s preventative measures will likely see a proportion of those operating in the events industry close. Cancelling large public events and restricting public transport is a situation no one had planned for pre-December 2019.
The events industry will be the worst hit in the UK. This will send a ripple nationwide. Without event visitors, the visitor economy will drop by a third. It is going to be a tough few years for our nation. The question is how much is too much? Healthcare is crucial. We should be washing our hands to prevent spreading disease. Always.
With a rising number of COVID-19 diagnoses, can we even be sure that the efforts put in place are doing anything to prevent an epidemic? Or are the regulations destroying industries, damaging the economy and increasing nationwide unemployment rates to play up to a media hype?