Hospitality & Tourism

Published: September 29, 2020 | Updated: September 29, 2020

“We are heading towards annihilation” – MD appeals for urgent help to save £84bn industry

By Andrew Diprose, editor

“We are already on our knees as an industry and unless something is done – and soon – we are heading towards annihilation.”

Craig Mathie, Managing Director of Bournemouth 7s Festival- the world’s largest sport and music festival – admits his words are “stark and scary.”

But, he says: “The events industry is heading, at warp speed, towards a black hole.

“Our value, both financial and cultural, is being ignored along with the livelihoods of more than 700,000 people.

“We truly are the forgotten sector.”

Craig, 33, pictured right, is winning plaudits from across the UK for his use of social media, and other platforms, to highlight the crisis faced by the events industry as a result of Covid-19.

It’s a massive sector.

Figures from the Business Visits & Events Partnership for 2019 value the UK events industry at £84bn broken down as:

  • £18.3bn – Conferences & Meetings.
  • £17.6bn – Music Events.
  • £14bn – Weddings.
  • £11bn – Exhibitions & Trade Fairs.
  • £9.6bn – Sporting Events.
  • £6bn – Festivals, Fairs & Shows.
  • £5.6bn – Arts & Cultural Events.
  • £1.2bn – Incentive Travel.
  • £0.7bn – Corporate Outdoor.

Some parts of the sector have received government help.

The Cultural Recovery Fund will provide grants of between £50,000 and £3m to cultural organisations affected by the pandemic with a total pot available of up to £500m.

And the furlough scheme has prevented even bigger job losses taking place across the industry – that’s up until now.

But Craig, who is Vice Chair of BCP’s Destination Management Board and a Council Member of the National Outdoor Events Association, said more needed to be done.

In particular:

  • A targeted extension of the furlough scheme. “The events industry traditionally makes its money in the summer. Many have not earned anything since last autumn. There is just not the money to pay people when the furlough scheme is phased out,” said Craig.
  • Targeted financial assistance through grants not loans. ”No responsible Director can keep piling on debt in the form of loans. There need to be grants,” he said.
  • A roadmap for the industry so that future plans can be made. “We’ve written off 2020 but we cannot afford to sleepwalk into 2021 with no certainty of when this is going to come to an end,” he said.
  • An end to some local authorities and public health directors effectively pulling the plug on events at the last minute even though all the necessary guidelines and procedures have been met. “It’s already inherently risky putting on events but these arbitrary decisions, which can be applied without any apparent justification, should not be allowed to happen,” said Craig.

Craig said he believed his campaigning on the issue was hitting a chord because of his passion for the sector.

Dorset Biz News, July 26, 2020.

He added: “Like so many in this industry I love creating memories and ensuring people have the most amazing time.

“It is genuinely heart-breaking to see what is happening.

“For us, at Bournemouth 7s, we spend all year planning and for the event not to happen is just devastating.

“However, we have faced many a crisis in the past, from terrorism to bad weather, and I have every confidence that there is no other industry better able to come out of the other side.

“We just need some hope, but above all help, from the government because without it, the future for an industry I love with a passion, and is such an important part of our lives, doesn’t bear thinking about.”