The event sector in 2021: the situation remains critical

After the disaster year of 2020, the Belgian event sector continued to suffer in 2021. Last year, event professionals in our country lost on average more than 50 per cent of their turnover compared to 2019. The wave of layoffs in 2021 was even heavier than in 2020, according to the economic impact study that was carried out in December 2021 by the centre of expertise Public Impact of KdG University of Applied Sciences and Arts.


Financial losses continue to increase in 2021


Compared to 2020, the corona crisis has inflicted in 2021 financial wounds on the event sector as well.


"In December 2020, event professionals (organisers and suppliers) reported losing more than 75 per cent turnover compared to 2019. One year later, in December 2021, professionals still predicted a loss of more than 50 per cent in turnover compared to 2019. This is worrying because more events were allowed to take place in 2021," emphasises researcher Joris Verhulst. "Events that could take place in 2021, were not very profitable. A third of the organisations indicate they organised more unprofitable events than profitable ones. The professionals predict that 2022 will barely be able to rectify the situation, due to the many uncertainties and corona measures."


Staff dismissed or leaving


The impact study also shows that the wave of layoffs in 2021 was even heavier than in 2020. Half of the organisations had to terminate contracts with employees and/or fixed freelancers in 2021. In 2020, this was 'only' 45 per cent. Almost 1 in 3 also expects to dismiss people in the coming months. In addition to the dismissals, there is also personnel who decide to leave on their own. Three quarters of the organisations say they have difficulty in keeping their staff and themselves motivated. In 2021, more than half of the organisations had staff who left because of uncertainty about the future of the sector. That is 16 per cent more than in 2020.


The event sector is shrinking: lockdown or not?


The combination of lack of sufficient support measures and the current corona measures are keeping event professionals in a stranglehold. Researcher Joris Verhulst explains: "The organisations cannot stay inactive, but basically run at a loss. So, it is no wonder that almost six out of ten organisations have often thought of stopping with their activities in the event sector. 86 per cent of the event professionals even believe that their sector has already shrunk by an average of 30 per cent since the start of the corona crisis. Almost two in three organisations think it is better to close the sector with support measures than to be forced to keep it open."


On the other hand, 87 per cent of the organisations are convinced that they can organise corona-safe events, especially after all the investments, in ventilation among other things. However, they do ask for unambiguous measures. Sixty-three per cent of the organisations feel that, as far as they are concerned, only vaccinated people should be allowed to attend events as long as the corona crisis is raging. Also, 52 per cent find it difficult to enforce the measures. According to almost six in ten organisations, the government puts too much responsibility on the organisers.


Read more about the research.