The UK is a world-leader in the events industry, topped only by America. It came as a surprise, then, for those that work in the industry to hear that they had been largely neglected from the Covid relief conversation. Is the £70bn we contribute annually to the economy no longer relevant? At the time, it seemed so, as businesses, workers and freelancers prepared for the worst. Now, it appears continued pressure has struck a chord with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has now announced a £750m insurance scheme for cancelled events; just what the events industry has been pushing for to get its feet back on the ground. Is it enough to save a dying behemoth? Is it time we fit Mr Sunak with an ‘S’ embroidered cape? (Styled differently to Superman’s, for copyright purposes.)
Hidden from view
When most people think ‘events industry’, they think weddings and festivals. Beyond that, presumably, it’s just a bunch of elderly people playing board games in a community centre. In actual fact, £30bn of the £70bn generated by the events industry comes from business events, conferences and exhibitions. To put that into perspective, sporting events account for only £9.6bn, and yet most Brits would be quick to say that sports events are a pivotal component of our economy. Being often B2B events, it is somewhat understandable that the business events industry remains tucked away from consumer view. Let’s take a quick look at the lay of the land in the events industry.
• 1.3m business events held each year
• UK exhibitions attract 13m visitors every year
• 25,000 businesses working in the events industry
• 570,000 full-time jobs supported
• 85m event attendees overall
Out of the woods?
It was estimated by events industry leaders that up to 500,000 jobs were at risk or had been lost over the last year of virus-fuelled mania. This may seem like irreparable damage, and indeed many were clamouring that the government had left it too late, condemning the sector to a slow demise due to the lack of financial aid. But, with a large proportion of freelancers able to begin new contracts with relative ease, the events industry is uniquely positioned to bounce back from such setbacks.
Granted, the pandemic is not over yet. Some countries are reporting spikes in the infection rate despite the vaccine rollout, so the future for live events remains somewhat obscure. But, one uniquely positive factor in the equation for events workers is the level of consumer interest. Despite a high risk of cancellation, consumers in the UK (and worldwide) still bought tickets in huge numbers when made available. Having spent a year kernelled up in their homes, people were willing to assume the risk and bank on the likelihood of their event going ahead. This was an injection, not just of money, but of confidence in an industry whose morale was certainly waning during the height of the pandemic. People showed that they were desperate to attend events again, perhaps prompting Rishi Sunak to take the leap and offer a safety net for the struggling industry.
The news couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune time. Some may still complain that it should have come sooner, but I dare say one needn’t look far to find a dissenting party in this modern age. Being a service economy, the UK is reliant on attracting customers, from both within and outside the UK, with an exciting roster of events and happenings. Sunak’s scheme will provide a boost to this much-needed industry, as well as having a knock-on effect on other industries, as more people start going out and spending money in a variety of channels. Alan Jenkins of Black Robin Exhibits writes, ‘It’s easy to underestimate the value of the events industry if you don’t consider the ‘indirect’ benefit it brings. Beyond simply the price of a ticket, an event that gets people out of their homes means money spent on travel, food, accommodation and more.’ We may not have a bespoke cape to offer Mr Sunak, but at this time he will simply have to accept our heartfelt thanks.
Theo Reilly is an independent writer and multilingual translator whose goal is to counteract stale writing in business blogs. Theo has particular interest in business and marketing-related matters surrounding the online world, web design, exhibitions and events.