Some of those involved in the events industry are calling on the Government to consider them for economic recovery assistance.
Lisa Ghany, executive director of Xceptional Events Ltd, in a letter dated May 13, sent to the Roadmap to Recovery committee, said the industry needed immediate support. The letter, which was also sent to the media, said thousands of people in the sector have been temporarily laid off from work.
“The entire events industry has been forced to sharply curtail, even eliminate entirely, their activities. Businesses are faltering. Our professionals are in distress about their ability to make ends meet. I fear that many may not survive and have to seek an alternative,” Ghany said.
In a phone interview with Newsday, Ghany said she e-mailed the letter to one of the committee’s sub-committees, headed by Colin Soo Ping Chow. She is awaiting a response.
Robert Le Hunte, Minister of Public Utilities and a vice chairman on the committee said there is a mechanism to make submissions to the committee.
“We welcome lots of submissions and we continue to get a lot of submissions which we are going through at this point in time,” he said in a phone interview with Newsday.
Le Hunte said some of the measures outlined in Ghany’s letter are already in place. A lot of suggestions will come, he said, many have financial implications and all submissions will have to be weighed.
Ghany cited the benefits the industry brings and said for those reasons event organisations and companies should be eligible for any and all relief such as deferring tax payments; payroll tax reductions; tax credits to retain employees; loan guarantees; loan forbearance, cancellation of debts through executive action by Government; special provisions for small businesses who operate from home; and capacity-building through training in financial restructuring and business strategy.
She said there are more than 500 registered event companies in TT, with additional event planners and small operators that make up the industry. Ghany said the industry is a diverse community, which extends beyond hotels, airlines and restaurants to include countless support services such as travel companies, independent event and show organisers, exhibition services, decorators, speakers, promoters, artists and entertainers, temporary staffing, and transportation.
“Hundreds of large, medium, and small-sized companies that engage in conceptualising, organising and executing events that help drive our economy are on the verge of collapse,” Ghany said in the letter.
She said, globally the industry contributes an estimated US$1.5 trillion of annual GDP and US$1.07 trillion in direct spend. It supports 26 million direct and indirect jobs globally.
She added the industry would like to be guided on the new event protocols and the time frame for the reopening of this sector as it moves forward.
She is not the only event expert to feel this way. Isha Clayton and her daughter Jayna, who head Event Experts Ltd, Chaguanas agree. Clayton is the company’s event director. In a phone interview with Newsday on May 14, Clayton said the company has been coming up with a new tag line for its wedding line of business, which is "quality over quantity."
She added that the entire events industry is in major financial crisis. The company has had no events since March and some clients have postponed events until August. Some were cancelled for the year.
Despite this, however, the Claytons have started preparing for the "new normal" and physical distancing measures/requirements.
She said they would not be able to have large gatherings until there is a vaccine for covid19, but what they can offer their clients is quality.
Not knowing when they will be able to host an event again is also challenging.
“Even with the uncertainty, we don’t know when the events will restart, we don’t know what will be the guidelines given to us by the Government. We don’t know how many people will be allowed to be in a space at a time,” Jayna said.
The company has earned no income since March but has had to pay rent, the cost of a showroom and warehouse and pay its staff.
With new measures in place, the company will also have to look at putting in place sinks and other sanitisation measures, a cost they cannot pass on to the client.
Clayton said as a company which organises a lot of Carnival events, it had a lot of questions about Carnival.
“The way we see it, we have been doing this for the last 20 years...but can you imagine how you will have to physically distance yourself in an all-inclusive fete? Or when everyone goes on the dance floor when Machel comes on the stage?
"Are we even going to have Carnival? Would corporate clients be willing to risk coming out here to sponsor?
"So all of this business is going to be possibly lost. Our new normal is so different to everyone else's. Tell me how are we going to deal with it.”
Jayna said they were in the process of trying to come up with ways of how the industry could be revamped to meet the new normal, such as having fewer guests at a table, using a big space but accommodating a smaller number, and having more space between tables.
Also weighing in on the issue, in a statement to the media on Tuesday, was president of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO), Lutalo Masimba who is better known as Brother Resistance.
He said while the organisation appreciates and salutes the Government’s organised response to the threat of covid19, there is concern that the entertainment sector and creative industries have not been represented in the Roadmap to Recovery team.
“This is a sector which embraces hundreds of micro, small and medium businesses; a sector which facilitates thousands in a framework of casual employment; a sector that contributes to the nation’s GDP (gross domestic product).
“In spite of this, it is a sector which has been fundamentally under facilitated by the State for decades; a sector that is easily forgotten or even neglected by our nation’s economists, academics, planning and development experts.“
Bro Resistance said it is lost on many that those in the entertainment sector and creative arts also have rents to pay, mortgages, bank loans, children to take care of and send to school, and families to feed. He said the need for physical distancing at this time leads to a deeper crisis, bringing distress to the livelihoods of all artistes and other individuals.
The Government is being asked to introduce an economic stimulus plan specific to the entertainment industry as part of the national conversation.