Business meetings and events budgets are not expected to return to pre-COVID levels until at least 2023, according to the latest research by the Meetings Industry Association (mia).
Compiled in collaboration with ABPCO, AIEA, Edge Venues, Headbox, and Venue Directory and many others, the research revealed how it could take another two years for the sector to completely bounce back from the impact of COVID-19.
Compared to pre-COVID levels, planners are forecasting average event budgets to be down 32% by the end of this year and will remain in a 12.5% deficit from 2023. A similar picture is being reported by booking agents who expect to see a reduction of 42% this year and a 17% reduction by 2023.
The main factors affecting confidence is the uncertainty around future restrictions and their impact on capacities, alongside COVID-Secure protocols having a detrimental effect on the delegate experience as well as financial risks and the lack of insurance.
However, the UK’s current successful roll out of the vaccine programme could aid a faster recovery as it was highlighted by both planners and agents as the leading assisting factor followed by the lifting of capacity restrictions and social distancing measures.
Currently, just over a third (37%) of both agents and planners have events scheduled to take place in Q2 2021. 84% of agents and 42% of planners have events scheduled to take place in Q3 and/or Q4 of 2021 with both reporting 50% of these are due to take place in a hybrid format.
Of enquiries that event agents are receiving, they are predominantly being made by organisations within the pharmaceutical and education and financial sectors, while conferences and forums, training events, corporate events, and teambuilding lead the way in terms of the type of events that are garnering the most interest. Average lead times have also currently extended from 5 months in pre-COVID times to currently 11 months – demonstrating the logistical challenges presented by the ongoing restrictions.
Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the mia, said: “While there is light at the end of the tunnel, the expected recovery times clearly highlight how the business meetings and events sector will not immediately bounce back to pre-COVID levels.
“We have already shared the findings with both DCMS and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Events, as it clearly demonstrates that as the sector slowly rebuilds it will need dedicated government support beyond the preliminary reopening date for events, which is why we have called for the Chancellor to offer tailored intervention in tomorrow’s budget including business rate relief packages, the introduction of a government-backed insurance scheme and an extension in the VAT reduction.
“Meanwhile we are continuing with our collaborative work with government to demonstrate that physical live events can take place safely and securely.”