Following on from the disastrous year 2020, the events sector in Belgium suffered further blows in 2021, including an increase in companies laying off staff from 45% to 51%.
That’s according to research by the Publiek Impact expertise centre of the Karel De Grote university college (KdG) in Antwerp. The centre has been monitoring the progress of the pandemic since it first appeared.
That has involved gathering data from 250 different organisations, from organisers to suppliers. The results show that 2021 was slightly better on the whole than 2020, but not by a great deal.
“In December 2020, events professionals reported losing more than 75% in turnover compared to 2019,” said researcher Joris Verhulst.
“A year later, in December 2021, the professionals still predicted a turnover loss of more than 50% compared to 2019. That is worrying, because in 2021, more events were allowed to continue.”
The problem is that while more events were allowed to go ahead, they tended on the whole to be less profitable events, he said.
“A third of the organisations indicate that they have organised more loss-making than profitable events. The professionals expect that 2022 will barely be able to fill the gaps due to the many uncertainties and measures.”
One of the results was that 2021 saw more redundancies than 2020: 51% saw redundancies compared to 45% the year before. And the worry is that job losses – including both freelancers and full-time employees – will continue in 2022. One interesting aspect of the numbers is that despite a somewhat more relaxed regime for events, fewer people turned out, exercising their own restraint even when not required to do so.
The same goes for staff in the sector, many of whom preferred to quit rather than carry on working in difficult circumstances. The sector lost more than half of its employees in 2021, 16% more than in 2020, and that includes full-time employees as well as freelance collaborators.
Verhulst also polled the companies responding to the KdG survey, and found a certain amount of annoyance at tough control measures combined with a lack of government support.
“The organisations cannot run inactive, but can usually only operate at a loss. It is therefore no wonder that almost six out of ten organisations have thought of stopping their activities,” he said.