It’s no secret that Covid-19 had a massive impact on how businesses operate now, whether or not that’s adopting new business practices or cutting staff. It’s no secret either that some areas have been hit worse than others, especially if that area is the hospitality, events and entertainment industry.
Hospitality and Tourism
Sure many businesses adopted the eat out to help out scheme in August and, yes this did help for a while. It created more work not only in hospitality but also in marketing and PR roles and it was probably one of the most notable PR campaigns for many businesses across the UK after lockdown. But did it fix things? While on the surface it did boost economy and present a sense of normality, but was it enough to compensate for months of closure for many restaurants, hotels, nightclubs and pubs? The answer is No. The graph below from statista.com, shows the record for the monthly number of seats booked in restaurants across the UK. As you can see the number of booked seats raises and remains its highest in August, but then once the scheme is finished these figures dramatically drop again, as it stands the figures for September 2020 for the amount of people seated in restaurants is 9.34 percent lower than the last year’s figures.
As for flights and tourism this area is a complete no go, with the likes of Ryanair having to sell off runway space in order to cover costs. Across many of the world’s cities, personal planned travel went down by 80–90%. The figure below shows the drop in flights across the lockdown period. As you can see for yourself at one point flights in nearly every country across the world dropped to nearly zero percent a phenomenon that we thought we’d never see in the 21st century. It is statistics like this that make you question, how long will it actually take for the tourism industry to recover, and will some businesses every fully recover?
Pubs and Clubs
You’d expect after months of being stuck in the house the first place people would run is straight to the pub, well that was my thinking anyways. Incorrect! Government measures as we all know saw the closure of many pubs and clubs and while restaurants and hotels were allowed to open, for places that didn’t serve food this wasn’t the case.
Over the period for the month of March alone bar sales dropped by 60 percent. Yes, some pubs and clubs redesigned to suit the new measures that the government brought in but that also takes time and money to fit new infrastructure and not all were even ready in time for the August scheme, as well as this redesign just wasn’t feasible for every facility to do at all. It was estimated in May that when lockdown was lifted only 69% of late night venues would have actually been able to open. From what we know now, due to ever changing measures brought in by the government this number could have been lower.
On the topic of Pubs and Clubs, may different establishments have been quite pissed off recently at recent government guidelines and rightly so… Oh and they been quite vocal about it. Many different nightclubs in the Belfast area have been using their social media pages recently to cause quite the stir. Outraged at the fact that clubs and bars have to close at 11pm as well as the ban on live music a number of different nightclubs have took to social media to express their opinion. The venue known as Limelight went viral on Facebook and twitter gaining thousands of likes and hundreds of comments and shares, with students across the area sharing the page on their social media and hash-tagging Limelight in the picture. Limelight made a statement on Facebo stating “The effect that these curfews will have on jobs, morale and mental health is immeasurable and we call for the Executive to review them as a matter of urgency.” As well as this the nightclub went on to contradict the measures put in place by stating “we believe we can deliver (and have already delivered) Live Music events safely within government guidelines” They finished the post by calling for the Executive to engage in the events and entertainment sector before” imposing seemingly arbitrary decisions on an already struggling industry”. Many other nightclubs such as Filthy McNasty’s and Thompsons Garage have since followed the trend showing images of their empty venue after eleven o’clock.
We Make Events NI
We Make Events NI is a group made up of a range of professions that make up the live event industry, they have a substantial following on Facebook and among them are some of the people responsible for taking the empty nightclub photos we spoke about earlier.
They recently made headlines as they held a socially distanced demonstration in Custom House Square in Belfast. More than 500 live event workers attended to raise awareness about pressures on the industry. The protest was held in order to call on the government to provide more support for workers who have had little to no income for six months.
What Now? Where does this leave us?
Well what now? and why am I even bothering to write this today? Well like everything surrounding this pandemic everything I have just told you leaves us with a large amount of uncertainly, and not to depress but the idea of normality to me seems like a million miles away. In Northern Ireland around 7,500 jobs are at risk due to a ban on some live events in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The recent outrage by the late night venues has become a bit of a PR nightmare in my opinion for the NI executive, who at the moment don’t seem to be able to answer anyone’s questions. As someone who works in hospitality and events I can’t see a return of anything resembling a gala or black-tie dinner any time soon. The only thing to look towards is possibly the internet? It seems to becoming the answer to all our problems recently, as we have seen many award ceremonies and events such as the Emmy’s and the MTV music awards were broadcast virtually and there was no audience and very little people attending. Neil Dalzell the owner of ND Events recently stated that he has “delivered virtual events from a purpose-built studio for clients. The events have the same look and feel as they did pre-lockdown but the only difference being that the audience watches the speakers or presenters from home.” As well as this Anna Connor the head of events at MCE Public Relations, has stated that they too will be looking into more virtual events in order to ensure that they go forward.
It difficult to know what the answer is to anything these days, whether or not if that involves longer opening hours or virtual events, although I’m not sure how much money I’d be willing to pay to virtually see any music performances when I have YouTube for free, but it guess only time will tell. My leaving piece of advice, after reading this maybe decide to tip your waitress an extra pound, or support your local hospitality sector a bit more where you can even if it’s just sharing a Facebook post, because from what I can see they need it!
Alicia Fox is a third year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at Linkedin: Alicia Fox and Instagram: alicia_fox3