Con­fer­ence chiefs warn of up to 1.2m job losses from Covid chaos

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Alan Tovey

BRI­TAIN’S £70bn-a-year ex­hi­bi­tions and events in­dus­try faces a near-total col­lapse be­cause of new con­trols to halt the spread of coro­n­avirus, busi­ness chiefs have said.

Lead­ers from the sec­tor, which em­ploys or sup­ports 1.5m jobs, say re­stric­tions an­nounced by Boris John­son on Tues­day that limit the size of gath­er­ings, and that could place cur­fews on some events, are likely to mean re­dun­dan­cies as high as 80pc across the sec­tor.

They are call­ing for the Gov­ern­ment to give clar­ity on how the con­trols – which could be in place for six months, if not longer – ap­ply to the sec­tor.

With events such as con­fer­ences, trade fairs and all but the small­est of wed­dings and other so­cial oc­ca­sions ef­fec­tively shut down by the mea­sures, they also want sup­port sim­i­lar to that which has been pro­vided to some other ar­eas of the econ­omy.

Jane Longhurst, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Meet­ings In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion, said the sec­tor had been gear­ing up to re­open on Oct 1 un­til the “rule of six” limit left it “fac­ing an abyss”, with the most re­cent mea­sures threat­en­ing to kill off an in­dus­try al­ready on life sup­port. She said: “We’re work­ing on the prin­ci­ple we can run events for 30 peo­ple as the guid­ance hasn’t changed – but it could well do so and the lack of clar­ity is a night­mare.”

Si­mon Hughes, chair­man of trade body the Busi­ness Vis­its and Events Part­ner­ship (BVEP), said: “Re­dun­dancy rates as high as 80pc are re­al­is­tic with­out some sort of sup­port.”

He added that even if the con­trols end af­ter six months, it will take longer for the in­dus­try to gear up again be­cause of the long plan­ning pe­riod needed to or­gan­ise ma­jor events.

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