The events industry has welcomed Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown for England, which clearly referenced events and could see all current restrictions lifted by 21 June at the earliest.
The Prime Minister announced a four-stage reopening plan, which will allow event pilots to take place from Stage 2 (no earlier than 12 April), while from 17 May, indoor events for up to 1,000 people or 50% capacity will be permitted, with up to 4,000 permitted at outdoor events. Up to 10,000 may be permitted in seated outdoor environments, such as stadiums.
Ian Cummings, Global VP, Commercial at CWT Meetings & Events, said: “It is fantastic to see light at the end of the very long dark tunnel for our industry, encouraged by the rapid vaccine roll out we have seen in the UK. Our industry will be focused on two dates, specifically May 17 and June 21. From mid-May, hopefully we will be able to hold indoor meetings and events for up to 1,000 attendees (or 50% capacity) and from 21 June – all restrictions will be relaxed allowing our industry to once again thrive!
“We know there is pent up demand and corporates are keen to meet again after what will have been the best part of 15 months. We will need to re-build confidence to meet again and I am confident that the measures put in place by hotels and venues, agencies and tech providers will mean that we are able to confidently meet again with minimal risk. International travel may take a little longer to return but we are already seeing demand increase for Q3 and Q4 across many sectors.
“As an industry, it has been more than difficult. The challenges are far from over and we do have some way to go, but we cannot help but welcome such a roadmap to help us to start meeting and holding those all-important business meetings and conferences once again.”
Louise Goalen, director of incentives at Top Banana, echoed Cummings thoughts about the light at the end of the tunnel. “Whilst there is still sometime between now and June, and the likelihood the proposed roadmap may be reviewed and extended at some point down the line, we have finally been given a glimpse of what the rest of 2021 will hold,” she said. “We’ve experienced a steady increase in enquiries for live events and venue bookings for the second half of the year, and after the announcement we expect to see this increase further. Our aim now is to encourage our clients to think about their events later in the year and what they could look like, whether that be live, virtual or hybrid. Many of our clients are still apprehensive, but we aim to work with them to build their confidence in meetings and events again.”
OrangeDoor CEO & founder Elizabeth Heron said she was “beyond excited to hear that if all goes to plan live events could be back from the 21 June” in a post on LinkedIn. “This industry is so ready to make it’s come back with the energy, vibrancy and creativeness that we are renowned for. As we move into the next phase of this new world we will be acting with the utmost caution and professionalism, and with the health and safety of all our participants at the forefront of our minds,” she wrote.
The Meetings Industry Alliance welcomed the ‘refreshing’ roadmap, which she said provides us with optimism that business will start to return in some capacity as early as Q2, but stressed need for intermedial support. “Throughout the course of the pandemic we have been calling for greater recognition of the sector and so we welcome 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,” commented Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the mia.
“Venues will, no doubt, now be re-evaluating their reopening plans on the back of yesterday’s announcement, 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.
“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.”
Michael Begley, managing director of venuedirectory.com said: “Thank you Boris, a clear roadmap is what we wanted and needed to put our industry on the destination to recovery – now we have one. There are still lots of hurdles to get over and, of course, we all want it all sooner and faster, but a slower but permanent solution is better than yo-yo-ing in and out of restrictions and lockdowns.
“What is vital now that we have these dates is that the whole industry is united in ensuring that we give corporate event planners the confidence to book live and hybrid events for Q3 and Q4 this year. We know that many bookers have been waiting for this clarification and it will be fascinating to see what impact this announcement will have on traffic and confirmations through our system over the next few days and weeks.”