Despite the gloomy prospect of continued restrictions on the events industry into 2021, the respite offered by the impending vaccination drive and, ahead of that, the potential to safely open events using a WHO-approved rapid-testing access system, has strengthened the resolve of many events companies which continue to search for innovative ways to trade in a very bleak landscape.
The events sector’s supply chain of people, businesses, organisations and associations is a key driver of the local economy through business meetings, conferences, confexes, trade shows, exhibitions and events. The massive economic disruption resulting from the loss or postponement of these events has set our industry back by decades.
Events are recognised as an integral part of business facilitation for the agricultural and manufacturing sectors, amongst others, through professional events like Electra Mining and Nampo. The tourism and hospitality industries are fuelled by the likes of Meetings Africa and the Tourism Indaba, as well as a wide range of sports events. Yet our current capacity restrictions and the stigma of events as “dangerous gatherings” have removed the event platforms which effectively connect buyers and suppliers to generate business. The effect on our business partners and clients has been to dramatically slow their ability to revive the economy.
In March and April, in the Western Cape alone, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival traditionally contributes around R700 million to the economy through tourism and hospitality sector spend while creating some 2 000 temporary jobs for locals. Likewise, in the sporting world, the Cape Town Cycle Tour, the Absa Cape Epic and The Two Oceans Marathon boost the economy to the tune of more than R1.5 billion per annum. Professional events are recognised as essential to economic recovery and business growth across a wide spectrum of industries, yet we are restricted to an unsustainable capacity during the Covid-19 pandemic. So how do we continue to assist our clients and contribute to the country’s recovery?
The events industry’s reputation for resilience, forward-planning and innovation is well-earned. Building on the success of the Event Reopening Guidelines the industry put in place in 2020 to mitigate risk; Recharge 2020 in December proved that events CAN reopen safely using the latest developments in rapid Covid-19 testing. Secure Health Passport Europe mobile technology and antigen testing combined with the rigorous event safety protocols already in play, ensure that the event space is a safer environment than our supermarkets, malls or parks. Just imagine the consumer confidence generated by attending an event knowing that everyone around you has tested negative for Covid-19! Ironically, organised events might, in fact, become THE safe space in which to unlock the route to market and resume business.
There is work to be done and we are calling on policy-makers and government to collaborate with the events industry to make these solutions workable on a much larger scale. Our industry is ready and waiting and extremely well-prepared to resume safely and responsibly.