Covid19 2.0: May have to wait through most of 2021 for live events to open up – Martin da Costa

Industry Watch | April 23, 2021 | Feature

70 EMG

Just as in-person events were limping back, there has been a fresh Covid19 wave and attendant restrictions are in place in different parts of India. EVENTFAQS Media reached out to industry stakeholders to get their view of the current situation and understand their approach to it.

We asked: Is the event industry better prepared now to face the challenge, than it was a year ago? Is there a case for government assistance to the event industry? What should the industry seek?

Here is what Martin da Costa, CEO, 70 EMG, had to say:

If this had been asked two months ago, I would have said yes, undoubtedly. Many agencies, including 70 EMG, had pivoted towards digital and the hybrid live / online experiential model over the course of the previous 12 months. At 70 EMG we ended the year particularly strongly with global live / online launches for a number of excellent clients. The virus seemed to have been conquered by what looked very like herd immunity in India, and the vaccination program was ramping up across the country. We were looking at an excellent 2021-’22, and I personally was of the firm belief that the live event business would roar back with consumers, clients, the public desperate for shoulder-to-shoulder connection. This would in turn supplement the wholly new revenue streams in the digital and online space that we had developed through 2020.

“The recent and appallingly tragic events of the last three weeks though have shown just how fragile our industry really is under the current Covid crisis. From a position where we were close to expanding our teams, gear up for a live event season, plan a number of exciting on ground / online IPR festivals and events –  we seem to have entered another twilight zone of uncertainty and chaos. We are all hopeful that the situation comes under some sort of control in the next few months. It may be however that we have to wait through most of 2021 for India’s vaccination drive to cover 50pc plus of the population before we can think about opening up. Whether the industry’s financial reserves – bolstered only somewhat by the limited revenue opportunities in the digital space – can survive that long is anyone’s guess. More agencies will undoubtedly suffer, many will close. The situation does look particularly uncertain in India at the moment.

“There is undoubtedly a case for government assistance. More than any other industry – more than hotels and hospitality, more than food and beverage – the experiential industry has been hit the hardest by the pandemic. We employ hundreds of thousands of people across India either directly, or indirectly through the supply chains we fund. The industry is critical for India’s global image post pandemic.

“We urgently require tax breaks on TDS and GST collections in order to maintain some semblance of a positive cash flow. We require government-guaranteed, low-interest loans as a valid substitute for the trillions of dollars spent globally outside of India on ‘furlough' and other employment support schemes. Post this immediate second surge crisis, the industry requires a proper, thought-through road map from the government for a timetable and the regulations required to allow us to open up again. We need to be speaking with central and local governments on the use of vaccine passports and on spot testing for exhibitions and events.

“In the meantime, we need to come together to beat this tragic second wave of the pandemic in India.”

EVENTFAQS Media reached out to industry stakeholders to ask if the event industry is better prepared for the second wave and attendant restrictions on events across the country.

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