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UK exhibition sector fears 30,000 job losses if government fails to provide a clear date for reopening

There are 30,000 direct jobs in the UK exhibitions sector currently at risk, according to the country's Events Industry Alliance, which also estimates a £8bn (US$10.1bn) loss to the economy if remaining exhibitions are cancelled in 2020. Sixty percent of supply chain companies are also not expected to reopen in October as furlough comes to an end, according to the latest EIA research. The EIA is an overarching body representing the UK’s event organisers, venues and suppliers.

The UK industry associations continue to lobby for the sector’s ability to deliver safe events using ‘controlled’ environments and to push the industry’s ‘vital role’ in getting the UK economy moving again.

Covid-19 lockdown measures were relaxed across many sectors in the UK earlier in July, however, activities in exhibition and conference centres were specifically excluded with no ‘go date’ given.

As a lead time of 8-12 weeks is typically needed to re-start exhibitions, the EIA believes the failure to announce a go-date is causing a confidence crisis among the industry and its customers, with the risk of significant damage to the UK economy.

The position in the UK contrasts with several other countries, including France and Germany, which have recently announced steps to reopen exhibitions.

The exhibitions industry plays a critical role for the UK economy, generating £11bn in economic activity and supporting 114,000 jobs. The industry also creates a trading platform for 178,000 businesses, of which approximately 140,000 are Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME’s), which have seen a significant impact on their sales by the cessation of exhibitions activity.

The EIA has outlined how the exhibitions sector is able to resume operations safely, as unlike many other economic sectors that have seen activities relaxed, the industry delivers controlled, ‘organised gatherings’, which are able to deploy track and trace measures and undertake thorough risk assessments.

Chris Skeith (pictured), CEO, Association of Event Organisers (AEO), part of the EIA alliance, said: “The exhibitions sector is a vital enabler of economic activity in almost every sector of the UK economy and failure to provide a go-live date impacts the ability of almost 180,000 businesses to recover. These businesses, including 140,000 SMEs, rely on tradeshows to meet customers and make sales, to launch new products and enter new markets, and the continued closure of events will have a negative impact on employment far beyond the events sector.

“As a sector, the safety of our customers and communities is of utmost importance and we are confident that by operating controlled events and deploying track and trace technology, we will be able to resume operations safely and at much lower risk than other sectors that have recently restarted.

“We hope to work with the Government to find a solution, however we need an opening date as a matter of utmost urgency in order to rebuild our industry and reignite the UK economy.”

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