Following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in Colombo, the Event Management Association (EMA) has issued comprehensive guidelines for hosting COVID-safe events and called for strictest possible adherence from stakeholders.
The EMA’s Handbook, lists out detailed safety and hygiene standards and protocols to ensure that all future events will be hosted in a responsible manner - minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission at events in order to avoid further shutdowns of an industry that is already on the verge of collapse after 14 months of closure.
The EMA represents the interests of an array of business segments, from event management companies, wedding planners, equipment rental companies (sound systems, lighting, LED, etc.) stage & set fabricators, furniture & infrastructure rental companies, and digital creatives companies to venues, florists, musicians, event support services, entertainers, dance troupes, artists, designers, technicians and many more. In total, the entire sector is estimated to contribute as much as Rs. 30 billion towards the national economy.
“We express our collective gratitude to the Government for taking a positive decision that will allow our members to earn a living after several painful months. While we welcome the opportunity for events to be hosted once more, extremely strict enforcement of comprehensive safety protocols is essential to avoid transmission of COVID-19 at events, Roshan Wijeyaratne, President, EMA stated.
“When events were previously allowed, we have been disappointed to see many instances when these measures were totally disregarded. If such carelessness recurs and further COVID-19 cases arise, another shutdown will risk permanently destroying what is left of our industry. For the sake of all those employed and the families who depend on our industry, this cannot be allowed to happen. We therefore call on all stakeholders to implement and enforce our recommendations immediately and without compromises,” he added.
EMA Vice President Sajith Kodikara noted that many event companies who have made massive investments into infrastructure, equipment, and development of skills with investments ranging from Rs. 10 million to Rs. 800 million per business are now on the brink of collapse and are struggling to pay wages and meet financial commitments.
"Without assistance, they face impending bankruptcy. This will affect 130,000 direct and 600,000 indirect jobs and the people and families who depend on our industry for their livelihood,” EMA noted.
Events are considered essential to businesses as a vital tool of ‘live communication’ which enables a cross-section of industries to present new products to the market and generate sales. In that regard, a high frequency of corporate events is often correlated with a healthy economy.
For countries that are beginning to emerge from COVID-19, face-to-face meetings and events are a priority feature of work they are looking to restart.
A study of 125 New Zealand-based organisations found that 97% are planning to hold a business event in 2021 – up from 94% of respondents to a survey conducted in May 2020 .
Another recent study found that business travel has increased by 55% since restrictions eased while 37% of respondents expect to resume travel in 2021.
“Another crucial factor to consider is the potential for Sri Lanka to be positioned as a ‘safe event hub’ for MICE and destination event tourism which will accelerate Sri Lanka’s economic revival," Nishan Wasalathanthri, Treasurer of the EMA observed.
He stressed on the importance of containing the health crisis with a scientific approach and a sustainable way forward for the industry.
"If we delay, we will most certainly lose out on business to other countries in the region,” Wasalathanthri said.
In emulation of global best-practices adopted as a solution to ensure compliance of guidelines, the EMA Handbook proposes the appointment of ‘safe-event ambassadors’ tasked with reporting on non-compliance of guidelines.
“The handbook is created to simplify the organisers’ tasks of planning and hosting events and to mitigate the risk of weaker standards being applied. While the guidelines are already comprehensive, we expect to update it with additional information shortly,” Minha Akram, Committee Member, EMA added.
The Association also expressed its support for the Government’s efforts to control the pandemic and re-start the Sri Lankan economy.
The EMA pointed out that as with many sectors of the economy today, their industry is in dire peril.
"There is however a light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of mass vaccination. We take great encouragement from the Government’s emphasis and continuing rollout of vaccines to the public and request the prioritization of vaccines for industry members," Gerry Jayasinghe, Advisory Counsel, EMA said.
“In order for all sectors of the economy to scale up activity, and have a meaningful chance at recovery, we need to achieve 60% vaccination as soon as possible. Only then will we be able to see larger scale events take place. We also take this opportunity to urge the public to continue cooperating with public health measures to speed our progress to recovery,” he added.
The EMA handbook will be available online on www.emalk.org from 19 July 2021.