HEN

Four months out of lockdown, we speak to Butlin’s Head of Conferences and Events, Nick Tipper, to take a look at how venues are moving forward.

It’s no secret that the pandemic has hit the events industry hardest. Being the first to close and the last to open has left many event venues in a difficult position of trying to maximise revenue while keeping expenditure down. While lockdown restrictions eased, the stops and starts on the road to recovery left many event organisers hesitant to make large bookings, putting venues in a precarious situation. Now, four months on, event venues are beginning to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

“Our business is predominantly a leisure business, so we were fortunate that we continued to operate after restrictions were reduced for our leisure guests,” said Butlin’s Head of Conferences and Events, Nick Tipper. “That wasn’t the case for many venues. We were operating at around 60% of our normal capacity. In July, we were able to return to full capacity. However, what lockdown meant for the conferencing and events side of our business is that we had to put a pause on that completely. Many venues were completely shut down and weren’t able to operate. We just stopped that side but continued to operate for our holiday makers, giving some people some much needed family time.”

The pandemic has created problems which both venues and the industry at large are still facing: “I was at The Meetings Show and spoke to quite a number of different organisers and agents who have been working with venues, just to get an insight into where the industry currently is. One of the big challenges they’ve been having is around recruitment.”

As many events professionals lost their livelihood during the pandemic, they found it necessary to leave the industry to find work in other sectors and haven’t come back post-lockdown. This has left some venues in a position that even if there is an interest in holding large events at their facilities, they are challenged to find the staff to accommodate the booking.

However, things aren’t all doom and gloom. With the vast majority of those living in the UK now double vaccinated, and more willing to attend larger events, many venues are feeling more confident to offer services that they haven’t yet reopened post-lockdown: “Obviously, we’re back at full capacity now for our general business,” Nick told us. “And recently we’ve just re-launched the conference and events side of things. We have three resorts, with Skegness as our northern flagship. All of our venues can accommodate anywhere between five and 400 delegates. We have a new agency called Front who are supporting us, so we have a new creative approach.”

What’s more, event bookings seem to be returning to their pre-pandemic levels, with Butlin’s reporting that while it’s too early to say if the types of events and the aspects they contain are the same as they were before the pandemic, it’s seeing similar levels of enquiries as before, with bookings for as many as 400 delegates.

While a holiday resort might seem to some an unusual place to hold an event, there are a lot of advantages to these kinds of venues: “In the current circumstance where many organisers aren’t wanting to take delegates abroad, we’re a really viable UK venue, and we have the advantage of having everything under one roof. All of our event facilities are on the same site as our accommodation facilities, which is really convenient for both delegates and event planners. We’re feeling really confident as we move into the new year that we’re able to offer some really good conferencing.” It may be an uphill struggle, but venues are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.