The corona crisis has left such clear traces in few sectors as the events sector. Concerts, fairs, exhibitions: since corona, almost nothing is possible anymore. Organisers, suppliers and venues report an average fall in turnover of 81 percent. And that has consequences for the staff.
A tour of Nieuwsuur shows that almost all major event venues are reorganizing or will do so soon.
In the box below you can see how many employees have to disappear per location in the Netherlands anyway. In the rest of the article we zoom in on the MECC conference centre in Maastricht, where fifteen of the 75 employees heard that there is no more room for them:
The MECC is a household name in Maastricht. A lot smaller than the RAI in Amsterdam, for example, but with big names such as the art fair TEFAF, vintage car fair Interclassics and Jumping indoor Maastricht, it’s still an important player in congress country. But now MECC has to make do with small meetings.
There are still some larger events on the agenda, but most of them have been cancelled, such as last week’s catering trade fair BBB. Turnover dropped by 65 percent after corona struck at the beginning of March.
The parking lot is empty, but the MECC building is working hard. At the beginning of next year, a major renovation has to be completed. Soon there will be not 3,000 but 5,000 visitors in the congress centre. An investment of fifty million euros. Director Rob van de Wiel: “The renovation has been underway for two years. We have to be ready when we have corona under control.”
With the disappearance of all major events, Angèle Bogaert (64) has lost the curtain. She has been working as a receptionist for the MECC and its predecessor since 1977. In March she came home: there was nothing more to do. In July she heard that she was getting fired, two years before her retirement:
Also for hospitality manager Patrick Ummels (40) there is no more work. In July he was told that he would be fired. “It is a very difficult situation. On the one hand: you get it. But my permanent home, where I have been living for almost twenty years, is disappearing.”
He is a hospitality man in heart and soul, but is now thinking about moving to care or education. “The hospitality industry is being hit very hard. I don’t see much future in that at the moment. I have a lot of work experience and a network, but I will have to retrain”
Director van de Wiel calls the impact of the dismissal on his employees enormous. “The layoffs were necessary to keep the MECC afloat. It is very difficult to say goodbye to people. But it had to be. We couldn’t focus on turnover, on business. Then you have to look at the cost side.” The government support measures weren’t enough to keep all the employees employed.
The old normal
The future of the MECC is uncertain. In October, a temporary coronaproof theatre will open its doors to 1250 visitors in one of the halls of the congress centre. But that does not solve the problems. “In the long run, we need to return to the old normal. We believe in the power of live events. Until then, it’s survival.”
Van de Wiel doesn’t rule out more people in the future. Should the situation worsen, the MECC will call on the Municipality of Maastricht (one hundred percent shareholder) for emergency loans.