Malta’s leading Event and Expo suppliers have come together to express their concerns at the effects Covid-19 is having on the industry, and the expected long-term, negative repercussions on the economy as a whole.
Due to the pandemic, the whole Events & Expo industry, which falls under both the Tourism and the Small and Medium Enterprises sectors, is currently at a standstill. The industry has already seen a substantial increase in cancellations and postponements of events for 2020, with some players reporting sales figures plummeting by up to 99 per cent as a result, amounting to at least €30 million in sales for 2020.
Apart from their business concerns, those present also expressed deep concern for the wellbeing of their employees. The sector currently employs more than 425 people, including full-timers, part-timers and casual workers, many of whom have specialised skills that are not easy to replace.
Furthermore, it was noted that in cases of global emergencies like this one, the Events and Expo industry is always one of the first to be badly hit, and even if the situation starts to come back to normal by June this year, it is expected that realistically the industry will not see any sort of turnaround and resumption of normal operations any time before March 2021.
While currently in talks with the Chamber of Commerce and the Malta Chamber of SME’s with a view to discussing the way forward, industry players have also drawn up a list of proposals to present to the Prime Minister and the Ministers for Tourism and SMEs. These proposals include a number of measures the sector will ask government to take in the hope of curtailing the negative effects of the crisis, as follows:
- Employee National Insurance contributions and tax payments to be postponed to 2021 on agreeable terms and without unforeseen additional taxes. This would benefit both the company and the employees themselves, allowing for more money to reach employee pockets at this difficult time.
- In order to reduce redundancies, the companies are proposing that government covers at least 70% of employee wages.
“It is heartening to see all these businesses that fall under the umbrella of the Events and Expo sector come together in such difficult circumstances,” said Mark Vella, managing director of Powerhouse, who spoke on behalf of the numerous companies present.
“Together we contribute at least €40 million annually to the Maltese economy. While dealing with the day-to-day developments of the outbreak of the virus, we also need to look to the future. Our objective, therefore, is to form a united front and present our proposals to the government for further discussion, with the view of safeguarding our employees’ livelihood, our businesses, and the sector as a whole, which forms such an integral part of the economy.”