My company has recently completed several events across three states and we have another in the next two weeks. I am left wondering when will the industry stop using covid as an excuse for poor service, increased costs and haphazard delivery?
It’s become the default to everything, when anything falls short the top-drawer answer is it’s because of ‘covid’ !!
What was underestimated by many, particularly venues and some suppliers, was that when we resumed there would be a pool of casual labour to tap into. What wasn’t contemplated was that with covid lingering the casual labour market would diminish to unstainable levels. Now permanent staff are working alongside agency staff who are being paid more. This is contributing to why some are leaving their current roles – not just because of the imbalance in hourly rate, but also the lack of energy and drive to perform the role.
What I find interesting is that food and beverage prices generally have maintained or have increased. Many venues are simply not cheap, they have a captive market delivered to them FREE by the show and they surely need to transact. Many are so stretched and so understaffed that Food Trucks are their new outlet. While many are up front about it being a solution to service shows, some try to disguise the ‘food trucks’. Why? Who knows? Again the industry isn’t stupid and with social media posts direct from food truck operators themselves, just maybe the venues need to be more open (as many are) as it’s a SOLUTION to something many have caused themselves. Maybe another consideration is that the organiser should have the option to provide their own catering.
We know covid has impacted us, however our focus should be about the rebuild and dealing with the same big issue that existed in 2020, confidence, which for many is still lingering.
From what I have witnessed, in most cases organisers are spending more money to deliver buyers to the events and there seems a genuine need and desire for buyers to attend, but are we doing more damage by not servicing them holistically during the whole experience, and with the clouds over the economy shifting in the second half of the year we need everything on our side for 2023.
Currently we seem to be doing more damage than good, and as service and quality is compromised maybe we need to close venues and the industry down until we can adequately service the shows, given it is likely the issue will be around for some time (certainly into 2023) or just maybe the language and the delivery needs to change… the problem is its now even harder to do so! So, have we bitten off more than we can chew and underestimated our industry’s recovery?
Some venues and suppliers are now cancelling existing bookings as they can’t service them properly, this takes guts on one hand but equally is causing a groundswell of negativity as clients are left high and dry in many cases, as I have said when the pendulum swings back these bookings will be essential to prop up what disappears from the calendar so it’s a double jeopardy.
A number of people kept saying we just need to get through May, but then look forward because on the horizon another back to back period is festering; this head in the sand band-aid approach needs to stop.
Associations need to call out and deal with the core issues and put aside their concern for sponsorship from the very companies now impacting us, so far they have continued to show little leadership and act as a club rather than bodies providing meaningful support services. Having first conceived the leaders forum for EEAA I have repeatedly said I am more than happy to go on any panel to discuss, debate or contemplate the core issues, to date they seem fearful what might come out and the offer has been ignored. My question is why as the best way to solve it is to talk about it and facilitate a way forward – I am happy to have any of my opinions challenged.
The VMA conference was held this week. Of the 14 sessions held over the three day conference the biggest issue venues face (staffing) had just one session and ONE HOUR devoted to it, surely this should have been the major focus of the conference?
Many who took the opportunity to let staff go who would be now pivotal to the training and rebuilding process need to stop blaming covid, look into the mirror and accept they have contributed to the current issue and be aware it will continue to be called out.
So what’s the answer, limping along creating brand damage of both the industry as a sales/marketing outlet and individual shows that may further impact the full return? All so some can say we are back, I would question we are back, I believe we are far from it based on how many are struggling to deliver.
I am calling out maybe we need to slow the return to match the service levels, and whilst some venues have done this along with service providers in many cases its far too late, burnt-out staff, risk taking turnarounds on site, and increasing costs will have an impact.
So the question stands, when will the excuses stop?