Leeds based AYRE Event Solutions reacts to the government announcement of the plan to ease lockdown restrictions and what this means for the events industry.

A new four-step plan to ease England's lockdown could see all legal limits on social contact lifted by 21 June, if strict conditions are met. Shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality could reopen on 12 April in England under plans set out by the PM.

From 17 May, indoor hospitality and hotels could open, and up to 10,000 spectators can attend the largest outdoor seated venues like football stadiums. The fourth step from 21 June will potentially see all legal limits on social contact removed, with the final closed sectors of the economy reopened - such as nightclubs. The government hopes that - from this date - restrictions on events, weddings and funerals will also be abolished. The new plan requires four tests on vaccines, infection rates and new coronavirus variants to be met at each stage.

AYRE, which specialises in event production, saw 95% of its revenue wiped out as a result of the pandemic following the cancellation of conferences, award ceremonies and live events. Sharing his initial thoughts on the announcement, AYRE managing director Chris Ayre said: “First and foremost, the news was exactly what everyone needed to hear. Some direction and benchmark dates so we can all start getting plans into place.

“I think for the events industry, it gives us a clear goal to aim for. We didn’t get this in previous announcements and restriction changes, only finding out in the small print what we could actually do. It certainly injected some much-needed electricity into the industry. And you can see already the positive talk on social media from the wider industry, which is great.”

Discussing what the government’s plan means for AYRE events and future plans, Chris added: “We already had preparations in place for when the announcement would be made – so we’re all ready to go with marketing, social media posts and newsletters. Most of which are orientated on advising and guiding clients back to normality.

“Thankfully, the business is pretty secure, so we should be in a great position to be able to work with clients on their in-person and live events again when they feel the time is right for them to return again.

“I’ve made sure that our future plans have always been elastic, bending and flexing with the announcements the government made. We’ve also been flexible to clients general thoughts and feelings to ensure that we’re in the best position to be able to not only support clients events but to be really reactive – possibly faster than our competitors. We’ve already started to ramp up our online presence. Making sure our website is best placed to provide information and guidance to clients.”

When asked what advice he would give to clients who already have virtual events planned for later this year, Chris Ayre said: “There’s no reason for businesses not to go ahead as planned with virtual events. Clients will probably have already committed to running a virtual event and won’t want to change.

“A lot of our clients have chosen to put things on hold pending the outcome of the announcement from Boris; these clients are now exploring the hybrid event setup as their own roadmap back to delivering their event programmes.

“It’s also possible that audiences won’t have the confidence to return to live in-person events just yet. It’s important that event organisers understand this and don’t try to force them to return. This is why a hybrid format is perfect, ones who feel comfortable to return can and those who don’t can access the event still virtually.”

“Physical events are coming back, that’s a fact” added managing director of AYRE events, Chris Ayre. “Businesses should start to implement plans for this as soon as possible. There’s going to be a huge demand for event space, and ultimately event suppliers.

“Given the battering the industry has had over the past 12 months, the event supplier pool has contracted somewhat as people have left for other more stable industries. It’s going to take a lot of work to get them back. Some of the industry’s big players have closed down, which means suppliers clients may have used pre-pandemic won’t exist anymore and they’ll need to source new ones. The next step for events will be hybrid until audiences' confidence has returned to be able to host fully live events again.”

Summarising his thoughts, Chris said: “Some people are finding the current situation really daunting, and are unsure of what they’re next steps are. But actually, it’s a really exciting time.

“We’ve never had the opportunity to have such a major reset in not only our businesses but our personal lives as well, (as long as people have used this time wisely). Lockdown has allowed many to revisit the drawing board, and really assess where they want and need to be. I’ve certainly done that over the past 12 months and I think not only my mental state, but the business is so much better placed to hit the ground running. Very exciting!”