ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s event managers are seeking equal treatment for corporate events as weddings under Covid-19 guidelines allowing 150 persons per event from the current 50 as well as a debt relief saying many companies are on the verge of bankruptcy.
“Our industry has been closed or shut down since April 2020 because the official guidelines that were released right throughout said no events,” Roshan Wijeyaratne, President of Sri Lanka’s Event Managers Association (EMA) told reporters.
“After the first wave, the government opened every industry from weddings and Cinemas, political campaigns except the corporate events industry.”
EMA was formed in 2019 after the Easter Sunday attacks. It has 65 member companies and says the entertainment industry also part of the grouping.
It represents event managers, wedding planners, sound lighting, LED, marquees, floral and deco companies.
EMA says that the industry employs 100,000 people directly and is part of the country’s marketing sector.
Though wedding receptions were recently allowed with 150 persons in recent Coronavirus health guidelines, corporate events were allowed only 50 persons.
“We thank the government for opening the wedding industry permitting 150 pax and some other related industries, but we are a little concerned and confused as to why a lower risk sector is given 50 pax,” Wijeyaratne said.
A recent COVID-19 guideline published by the health ministry allows brand launches, seminars and conferences to be held with only 50 participants.
“No company is going to organize a conference, product launch or a corporate event for 50 pax spending a lot of money,” Wijeyaratne said.
“We ask the government to give us 150 pax and to open the corporate event industry and gradually increase”.
EMA said it had met Sri Lanka’s Army Commander, who heads the Covid-19 task force, the Director-General of Health, and other officials in March and appealed to them to open the industry.
“We have already been shut for one year and some of the companies are bankrupted on the brink of it,” Wijeyaratne said.
EMA has also come up with a set of guidelines that would make corporate events less risky and presented them to health authorities, but there has been no response so far.
“We gave them the guidelines that we prepared went through the ministry of health to start the industry but unfortunately its sitting on someone’s desk,” Wijeyaratne said.
“We have been a very responsible industry and we formed the guidelines offering sustainable solutions to keep our industry alive for a long term.
“In preparing the guidelines we have gone into a lot of details because we wanted the government to support us to start the industry and make sure that everyone follows it.”
EMA also requests the government to the entertainment industry which hosts musical events, drama and dance.
“When you look at BMICH, Lionel Wendt or NelumPokuna we ask to fix seating and give us 50 per cent of the capacity,” Wijeyaratne explained.
“These are avenues you don’t need to take the mask off because you are not going to eat and drink in these places but sit and watch.”
“I like to ask the government why it refuses to understand the events industry when they know that there’s an association and we have met them, and why the step-motherly treatment?”
“We don’t want double stands, we want one standing for our industry whether it be a corporate event, a wedding or a fashion show; we want one standing for all and give us the guidelines and the officials can ensure they are followed by all these sectors.”
Debt moratorium for SME
EMA says a debt moratorium for the SMEs had left the industry with higher levels of debt which they are unable to pay.
“A moratorium was given to the SME sector, but it was of no use instead we fell in more trouble,” Nishan Wasalathanthri, the treasurer of EMA said.
“We also took the moratorium without knowing and after the six month period ended either they told us to pay the interest or on top of that another loan was offered at 8.5 per cent.”
With the industry closed, they are unable to pay the loan.
“From our side, we request the government to give us a grace period of 6-months without a moratorium until the industry open ups,” Wasalathanthri said.
“Because at least 75 per cent of our companies are listed on Credit Information Bureau of Sri Lanka beyond that we are unable to get a loan or a lease.
“We have come to a stage where we aren’t able to feed our own families because we have no income.”
“There are a lot of representatives from sound, LED etc who have invested in a lot of inventories because without those they aren’t able to do a standard event but now they aren’t able to do anything at all,” Wasalathanthri said.
EMA says companies in the industry invest in equipment from 10 million to 500 million rupees.
“For us to go forward from here we humbly request the government to open the industry for us and allow us to host at least 150-200 pax or at least 50 per cent of the hall capacity and we will ensure that we will adhere to all the guidelines we have prepared.”
Authorities could take action on any company in the industry that violates the COVID-19 guidelines, he said. (Colombo/July15/2021)