6th Jul, 2022

'You miss events, we miss our income' - NEC supplier warns of swathe of job losses ahead of restructure

John Carlon 25th Sep, 2020 Updated: 25th Sep, 2020

A SUPPLIER to conferences at the NEC has warned the continued closure of the exhibition centre puts 30,000 jobs at risk.

Natalka Antoniuk, of trade stand business Quadrant2Design, has said her business has already made ‘difficult choices’ after orders evaporated following the lockdown in March.

Despite the pandemic forcing organisers to scrap trade shows, the NEC has played a huge part in the coronavirus pandemic when an NHS Nightingale field hospital was set up in the exhibition halls.

Conference businesses tentatively planned for shows to resume in October, but the latest government announcement on restrictions has poured cold water on timelines.

Natalka Antoniuk of Quadrant2Design

Ms Antoniuk said: “The events industry is arguably the hardest hit. They were the first to close and will be the last to reopen. A restart date came with a sigh of relief as thousands of event planners, suppliers and venues went back to work. This week, that glimmer of hope and optimism was ripped from beneath our feet.

“My company builds exhibition stands at trade shows and business events. Every day we hear of another show being postponed. We have already had to make difficult choices and are prepared to make more if we can’t access support.

“The events industry contributes £70 billion to the UK economy, half of which comes from business events. The industry boasts 700,000 skilled full-time employees. But, relies upon the expertise of hundreds of thousands of freelancers to make your events happen. Millions of people have been unable to work since March.

Despite these facts, the events industry was (mostly) excluded from Rishi Sunak’s billion-pound handout. I say mostly because Sunak did make £1.57 billion available to cultural, arts and heritage institutions meaning a handful of our venues got support.

Not all of them.

“The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) was at the forefront of the Covid-19 pandemic. The venue closed its doors in March, along with the rest of the events industry. However, just over two weeks later they reopened their doors as a 500-bed NHS Nightingale Hospital.

“The hospital, provided to the NHS rent-free, was ready to take the pressure off and allow existing hospitals to focus on patients that required intensive care. Matt Hancock commended the NEC for their speed and efficiency. VisitBritain awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Tourism award to the entire business events industry for their offering.

“In just under three weeks, the NEC executives will begin consulting on a staff restructure which will almost certainly lead to hundreds of job losses at the NEC, Resorts World and ICC.

“In an average year, the company has an annual turnover of approximately £160 million. They employ 2,900 members of staff and support a further 29,000 jobs associated with their supply chain.

“Each year they host around 750 events, welcoming 7 million visitors. In total, it is estimated that the NEC Group contribute £3 billion a year to the West Midlands economy.

“This year, the have reported “almost zero” revenue since mid-March.

“After offering their largest venue to the NHS, the NEC Group found themselves excluded from Sunak’s £1.5 billion support package for the culture sector. With no events allowed to take place until April 2021, the executives have no choice but to restructure the business.

“This, of course, puts thousands of jobs at risk. Furthermore, without additional government support, the West Midlands risks losing this business altogether. The effects that the closure of the NEC and associated businesses could have on the area are detrimental.

“Almost one-quarter of visitors do so for business purposes. The money they spend does not go to the event organisers, suppliers or venues. It goes into the local economy. It goes into the hotels, B&B’s, cafes, bars, shops and restaurants. The NEC contributes more than business events to the West Midlands.

“As well as devastating increasing to unemployment in the area, by forgetting the business events industry, our government has cost the West Midlands £3 billion annual investment in the local economy.

“Excluding us from any additional support packages won’t just affect our livelihoods. It will cost communities billions. The news that the NEC are thinking about job cuts must not set a precedence for the industry.

“We were more than happy to step aside and offer our venues and our suppliers to help during the first wave. Now we need help. You miss events. We miss our income.”

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