The events and exhibitions industry in Coventry and Warwickshire is facing disaster without a clear roadmap to reopening.
The warning was sounded at a virtual round-table meeting between members of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and Coventry South MP Zarah Sultana.
Representatives from the 16 businesses that attended said they felt they had been pushed to the back of the queue and needed to lobby harder for a clear timetable of when events and exhibitions will be allowed to begin to take place.
They questioned why similar sectors had been allowed to open up over the summer while events and exhibitions companies had been forced to stay shut, despite proving they could operate COVID-19-safely in a national pilot.
Among the other issues raised were the need for a bespoke financial package that included more grants rather than loans that were currently on offer, an extended business rate holiday beyond the current financial year, and for the VAT reduction to five per cent to continue for the foreseeable future.
Sean Rose, Policy Officer at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is a very crucial time for the events and exhibitions sector, which in 2018 was reported to be worth £42.3bn to UK plc. While there is the need for further financial support, the clear message is that the best way forward for them is to have a clear timetable for reopening.
“Our members say want to know the Government understands their situation and want it to acknowledge that. This is a sector of the economy that feels it can play a major role in post-Covid-19 recovery, but one that is left scratching its head as to what their future looks like.”
Zarah Sultana, MP for Coventry South, said: “It’s an understatement to say this sector has missed out on the support that’s been available so far. There is clearly a need for a bespoke financial package from the Chancellor with more grants crucial, otherwise by taking on debt they will be simply kicking the can down the road.
“But more importantly they need a reopening date that they can work with. Exhibitions and events cannot simply open up overnight, businesses need a clear timescale to work to. At the moment they don’t have that.”