BVEP - Business Visits and Events Partnership

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OIOV Supporters Update – week ending 17th September 2021

Waving, not drowning?

So farewell then Caroline. Bye bye Oliver. Hello Nadine. All change at the DCMS as we wave goodbye to a raft of people that for the last 18 months or so have been the focus of an enormous amount of cross industry lobbying and pressure. When we say cross that means across every single sector of the UK event industry; it also means that frequently they were more than cross - they were often bloody furious and with good reason too. Whilst continuity will continue via the officials that have been dealing with the crisis, attention and effort will be diverted as the civil servants establish what the priorities and policies of their new ministerial masters are going to be.

We really don’t need this kind of diversion at the moment, as the list of outstanding issues and challenges facing us have not really diminished since Boris brought us Freedom Day. There is no doubt that the pent up consumer demand to get back to concerts, festivals, night clubs, weddings and footie matches has been huge. However it seems that confidence in the business events sector remains fragile, with the focus at the moment appearing to be on getting teams together or holding celebratory events rather than lots of large scale conferences and exhibitions. Despite the rather indifferent weather over the summer months outdoor events both traditional and new have been stretching resources and testing match fitness – but more importantly highlighting that the short season of 2021 is going to bring even more pressure in 2022 to move beyond recovery mode back to sustainable businesses. It’s going to be a long old haul.

So in no particular order the last couple of OIOV Taskforce meetings have been discussing the current challenges. It’s clear, now that Plan B has been identified, that the whole COVID passport question remains very much on the table, particularly if things go in the wrong direction over the next few weeks. There is no doubt that whilst some sectors are happy to work with a certification/passport solution, it will pose real problems for other settings and situations, such as night clubs and festivals.

Then there is that event insurance scheme, promoted so fulsomely in outline form, but still awaited as detailed work goes on – hopefully we will learn more next week. Lessons learnt from some of the people involved in getting this to the finish line – most Whitehall officials have never had any direct experience of devising insurance cover in their careers, so they needed our commercial expertise and experience to get this done. Is it too little too late? Time and Covid case levels will tell.

Apart from the crush of events of all types landing at the same time this year, the lack of haulage capacity has impacted every single industrial sector in one form or another. The damage inflicted to the event industry supply chain generally remains a major concern. We are now seeing reports of the amount of business that has been lost and the number of jobs that have gone. The DCMS estimates that 126,000 jobs had gone by the end of August. Linked to the challenges of the diminished supply chain are the skills shortages now being felt across the industry. COP26 might be a fantastic event for the UK to host but it has been soaking up all the experienced freelance production and management talent that so many of our major creative agencies rely on to ensure world class delivery. Wage inflation is now forming part of the mix that for some of our industry feels like the perfect storm – not enough demand, reduced supply support and higher costs for expertise and experience.

The other items that remain very firmly on the table are Brexit, international travel and working effectively with local authorities. On the latter OIOV is planning to hold its next Taskforce virtual meeting on Tuesday 28th September 2021 – moving our weekly meetings to fortnightly as the demands of recovery and the day jobs are absorbing more and more time. We are planning to have some representation at that meeting to discuss the current relationship with Local Authorities across the UK and what we as an industry can do to support them and their local communities by using the power of events in a safe, expertly risk assessed manner to deliver real value, practical benefits and fantastic experiences.

Finally on the time and resource front we are aware that many of our OIOV supporters are now really stretched, both by delivering events, pitching for new business or planning productions and performances for 2022. If there is one single thing that we could all do together that won’t take a huge amount of effort or time it is this – build confidence. Confidence amongst our guests, visitors, ticket holders, delegates. Build confidence with our key stake stakeholders. Be confident with clients. Be confident in our communications.
We are all creative problem solvers – be confident in that.