Event companies feel left behind as economy reopens

Operators lament what they deem ‘double standard’ as the industry reaches its dying stage with many businesses already close


LIVE event organisers and peformers are pleading for the government to allow them to resume their businesses that have been suspended for almost a year.

The sector is one of the few that has not been allowed to operate since the first Covid-19 restrictions were introduced in March last year, even as more and more sections of the economy have reopened.

Many operators call this a double standard by the government.

Event managing company Elipse30 Sdn Bhd ED Wan Afzanizam Wan Razali said it is “unfair” that events under strict Covid-19 protocols cannot be opened while malls and night markets, where it is impossible to maintain physical distancing, are operating.

“What is the difference between (malls and night markets) and events or exhibitions?

“I do not understand why it is necessary to have such double standard on the implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for our industry,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

He said his company is at the end of the rope because there has been no income for almost a year.

Wan Afzanizam said if event managers are not allowed to operate while others are open, the government should provide the industry with specific help, including bridging loans.

“Many event contractors have closed businesses since the first Movement Control Order (MCO) last year.”

Following his experience of the first MCO in 2020, Wan Afzanizam is expecting the worst from the current MCO.

He is at the stage of having to sell equipment to survive because, despite zero income, his company still has to pay overheads and expenses.

The only ray of hope Wan Afzanizam sees over the horizon is that things will open up when the vaccine is widely available.

Triple Touch Décor N Events Sdn Bhd owner U Ratnam@Afong said the industry has reached its dying stage with many businesses already closed.

Ratnam also called the government’s exclusion of his industry while allowing similar businesses to operate as double standard imposed on the industry.

“The government does not know how to find the balance,” he told TMR. “This MCO 2.0 is just a big waste if you ask me.”

Ratnam said while virtual events are allowed to be held, it is not a replacement for live events in terms of revenue as well as experience.

He asked the government to help the industry financially, as well as create opportunities for companies like his to venture into other fields.

In December last year, during the Conditional MCO period, the events industry saw a glimmer of hope when they were allowed to organise weddings and exhibitions at a 50% capacity scale depending on the space.

The SOP then was that all seminars, training, conferences and exhibitions, as well as gatherings such as feasts, weddings and engagements, receptions and reunions, could operate at half of the capacity of the premises — in compliance with physical distancing, mandatory use of face masks and based on the general SOPs of implementation of official government and private events.

However, other players involved in sound, lights and outdoor events were still at a standstill then and Ratnam had warned that if these continued to be on hold, the industry could see a grim ending.

Meanwhile, for business events, a survey by the Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers in January stated that business events industry players had experienced revenue losses of RM2.25 billion, a drop of 90% since MCO 1.0.

A total of 5,610 employees have been laid off since then, equivalent to 17% of the total industry workforce. Venues have had to survive since March last year with almost zero revenue.

Before the advent of Covid-19, the industry contributed RM3.9 billion in direct expenditure to the country and generated RM9.2 billion in economic impact in 2019.

Read our previous report here

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