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Concern that the meetings, events, and accommodation sector has been ignored by the Chancellor when it comes to specific financial support has been expressed by Simon Richards, Treasurer of the Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA).
He said: “There was £700m for arts and sporting institutions; £5bn in grants for shops, hospitality and leisure businesses – Business-to-Consumer sectors. Yet there was no mention of support for meetings, events and accommodation agencies or venues anywhere – the Business-to-Business sectors which have faced all the same issues of having to survive without any income until lockdown eases – and will do so for some months longer as the lead time for events is much longer.
“Meetings and events businesses ought to be included in the £5bn Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants. We will be seeking clarification on this – and explanation if they are not.” He said that agencies require widespread access to the grants already available, but HBAA research found that 20 per cent of agency members had not been able to access any grants and less than half had received support from existing schemes to date.
Richards continued: “The extension of the furlough scheme and another self-employed support scheme to September, the continuing Business Rates Relief and VAT reduction; these will all be welcomed by our industry. “These measures have been important to many agencies with 74 per cent of them recently telling us that they wanted an extension to the furlough scheme and 48 per cent requesting 100 per cent rates relief. However, many cannot benefit from the rates relief as they don’t have business premises, either through the nature of their work or because they have invested in technology.”
Many resilient businesses and talented individuals in this sector would be struggling to survive until after 21 June when they can start creating and running major live meetings and events once more, he said: “We have said for a year that this will be one of the last sectors to reopen fully and we have been looking for specific support that acknowledges that factor. “We also wanted support for the recovery not just for survival. Event insurance is key to giving event organisers confidence to book.
We also require help to reduce and prevent further unemployment but there was no mention of it, although we welcome the increase in incentives to take on apprentices as our industry needs new talent for the future.
He has also raised the issue of mental health of the workforce: “Personal circumstances aside, furloughing and redundancies have taken their toll and many face more months without work or running businesses with no immediate income. Our recent survey found that less than half of agencies and just over half of venues have trained Mental Health First Aiders at a time when they are needed. Financial support for mental health at work is more vital than ever.”