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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 28/01/2021

In December 2020, VisitScotland’s Events Directorate conducted a second online survey of the event industry supply chain to gather further vital information on the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the businesses working in the sector, and to accurately inform the measures required to ensure Scotland’s events industry survives.

Today (28 January) we have published the key findings from the survey which generated 248 responses. Although overall responses were slightly down from the June returns (315), the majority of respondents across both surveys were based in Scotland (89% June/ 92% Dec), with similar returns highlighting their business covered the whole of Scotland (34% June/ 38% Dec).

December results again underlined the breadth of organisations involved in the events supply chain including event organisers & producers – the largest group of respondents (24%), venues (11%), production services (10%) equipment hire (8%) and freelancers (7%).

A third of respondents (33%) were from owner operated businesses with no permanent staff, and most others were operating in small or micro businesses with only 3% employing more than 250 staff.  Similar to June, use of freelance contractors continued to be a common theme.

Over-arching December survey summary findings highlighted:

  • 70% of respondents stated that Covid has had a severe impact on their business.
  • 52% of respondents are 100% reliant on the events sector for their business turnover (57% June), a further 27% are 61-99% reliant (26% June).
  • 46% of respondents stated they can only remain trading between 1 and 6 months (43% June), with a further 23% (25% June) unsure of how long they can remain in business. 3% have already ceased trading (4% June).
  • 18% have lost over £1 million pounds in revenue to date (11% June), with a further 41% having lost between £100k and £1m.
  • 68% (44% June) of those still trading stated that their income will not exceed expenditure until physical distancing restrictions are lifted.
  • 45% of businesses with staff have already made redundancies (9% June) with 22% expecting to make redundancies before March 2021.  45% said they will need the furlough scheme beyond March 2021 in order to retain staff.  

Access to funding

  • 83% of businesses with staff had accessed the furlough scheme (53% June) and 37% of sole traders had accessed the self-employment grant. 
  • 64% of respondents were able to access additional support mechanisms such as the Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan, Events Industry Support Fund and Small Business Support Grant.
  • For the 36% who were unable to access additional support mechanisms, the main reason was lack of eligibility (56%).

Adapting through adversity

Although there continues to be significant challenges faced by the industry, similar to the June survey, there are positive examples of businesses who have managed to diversify (34% June/ 40% Dec) by either offering new products and services or selling to a different client base.  From increasing digital offerings to focusing on outdoor events; introducing specific Covid-19 related activities and products to converging with different markets – the spirit of innovation shown by the sector is to be commended. 

Voice of the sector shaping further support

Despite the rollout of the vaccine, overall the survey results continue to emphasise the significant challenges and financial hardship faced by many across the events sector and beyond.  

Across both surveys, recurring themes continue to remain at the forefront including loss of income, short-term outlook for trading timescales, limited or no cash reserves, redundancies, and lack of funding eligibility.  Combined with the continued period of lockdown, the ongoing restrictions around the restart of events and the physical distancing limitations in place – the landscape still looks very stark for many.

The feedback and voice of the sector through both the Events Industry Advisory Group and the survey results has been critical in helping shape and inform further support for the sector.   In addition to Scotland's Events Recovery Fund and the Pivotal Event Businesses Fund, VisitScotland has today (Thursday 28 January) announced support that will provide additional help to the events sector as it continues to deal with the ongoing impact of COVID-19.  

The latest funding takes into account the over-arching findings from this survey and will build upon the existing support already provided to event businesses last year through the Events Industry Support Fund (EISF) while a new application process will open next month for those events and supply chain businesses which were ineligible to apply to this fund last Autumn.   

For more information read our news story on the latest Events Industry Support Fund announcement 

Read the results from the June 2020 survey