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93% of organisers have changed their business models in response to the pandemic but a full recovery isn't expected until 2023 at the earliest.

60% of event operators have made staff redundant

Ian S

The UK events industry has lost £57bn of its £70bn pre-pandemic value over the past 12 months.

The Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP), whose members include tourism agency VisitBritain and the Events Industry Alliance, reports a 95% drop in events, a 17% reduction in the size of the sector and the loss of 126,000 jobs.

More than half of event operators have made redundancies, cutting a third of their workforce on average.


"The events industry has been hit even harder than the hospitality sector... there was no summer staycation, no 'Eat Out to Help Out', no inbound travel," BVEP's report, released Wednesday (September 8) said.

Whilst the figures reflect conferences and meetings as well as festivals and showcases, £29.2m of the estimated value of events is in cultural rather than business-related activities.

Major events like Coventry City of Culture, Festival 2022 and the upcoming Commonwealth Games provide "opportunites in the short term" to raise the industry's profile domestically, where there is "pent up demand", the BVEP says.

Martin Green, Chief Creative Director for Festival 2022 and the Commonwealth Games' opening and closing ceremonies, told MPs this week the festival's strength lies in not being tied to a sporting or "touchstone" event like the 14-18 NOW commissions.

"That has allowed us to use the whole of the UK as our venue."

ArtsProfessional understands summer festivals have struggled with power outages and toilet shortages after uncertainty over restrictions and insurance compressed their planning time.

Asked if he was feeling rushed, Green said: "We have now a national skill set in running events against the clock."

"You inherently design the project around the time you have - the trick there is to not let the time dictate what you're doing."

Bounce back?

Although enthusiasm for cultural mega events is high, event organisers fear a slow return to full strength.

70% in BVEP's survey said interest is down compared to spring 2019, whilst a fifth of organisers were fielding more enquiries.

None expected to reach pre-Covid levels until 2023 at the earliest.

"Uncertainties in terms of confidence, both buyer and organiser, and disruptions in international travel are major challenges for the next 12 months," BVEP says.

Inbound tourism is not expected to recover fully until 2025. Local authorities, tasked with licensing events, may also begin taking a more "cautious and inconsistent" approach.

BVEP Chair Simon Hughes said one of the greatest challenges of Covid-19 has been "the rapidly-changing nature of the communications, regulations, guidance, and advice that we must cope with" to produce compliant events.  

Though they will have to satisfy councils' health and safety requirements, BVEP notes that organisers have discretion to mandate masks, pre-event testing or vaccine passports in the absence of legal restrictions.

"In effect, the industry will become self regulating."

Strategic input

Better coordination between industry groups and the government has been a silver lining of the pandemic.

However, there is still a need for "greater, deeper and longer-term industry representation", BVEP says.

It is advocating for a new over-arching events industry body akin to Arts Council England to lead Government and industry strategy.

Its report says this would be "a sizeable but meaningful outcome from all the lessons learned during the pandemic".

Hughes said the report shows the pandemic's "devastating impact" as well as the industry's resilience and ingenuity.

93% of events organisers pursued new business models during 2020, most of them digitally led.

"[There are]  significant opportunities that can be there for all of us in the future, if we continue to work together as a single united industry," Hughes added.