Plan and the future will be bright

Paul Walters, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


The event sector which includes hospitality and tourism, has seen a significant decline in commercial activity, since March 2020 and as we come to the close for the year 2020.  Many small to medium size business saw a complete loss of business, this included the festival industry which had somewhere in the region of 7 million visitors attending festivals in the UK each year.  It is reported, the UK prior to the COVID restrictions had somewhere in the region of 400 plus festivals throughout the UK each year.  Even the largest event provider on the planet ‘Live Nation’ experienced financial difficulty and received $500 million from a Saudi investment fund.  Live Nation furloughed 20% of its staff to save $600 million and Live Nation artists were informed by the company to take a pay cut.  This was a similar situation and mirrored in most cases across the Event Sector. 

Companies within the sector that had Interruption Insurance, attempted to make a claim because of the Government shut down.  The sector will fully understand what is meant by ‘interruption Insurance’.  As some insurance companies decided to decline claims on ‘Interruption Insurance.  Insurance companies argued that many claims did not specify or have insurance for the specific type of interruption.  However, there was some light at the end of the tunnel, a High Court ruling on the 15th September 2020 which represented 370,000 policy holders who are some way clearer to an answer and pay out under their interruption insurance claim.  So, what do we learn from this, it is not just necessary to have interruption insurance but also specify the type of interruption be that Government shut down, a pandemic and what type of virus, be that SARS, Zika or any other known type.  

Some event companies within the sector made an early attempt to re-engage with their consumers through a different medium. Those that made the immediate change rather than cancel maintained a presence in the commercial marketplace and some saw a significant increase in revenue. 

Image source: https://www.tomorrowland.com/en/festival/welcome

If you haven’t heard of Tomorrowland outdoor music festival, let me refocus your attention. This is a festival that takes place in Belgium and has a 15 year history.  In 2019 Tomorrowland had 250,000 attendees at the festival site.  When the pandemic hit the global economy, Tomorrowland didn’t cancel or postpone, they created over a period of three months an online virtual festival. Two million people registered for a ticket and 400,000 people received an invite.  Some commentators say the industry in the main wasn’t quick to respond to the change to the environment, thus providing a short-term alternative solution for their customers. 

In the North East of England, we saw the first licensed outdoor music event that ran for a period of 6 weeks. With a maximum capacity of attendees each day of 2500, contained in their own Covid secure zones, a maximum of six per zone.  The event was sponsored by Virgin money as title sponsor.  For the event to have a return on investment, a schedule of live performances over six weeks was the only solution.

Image Source: Daily Feed

So, the question on everyone’s lips, will the event industry recover and what will it look like in 2021 going forwards. 

There is no guarantee for this virus to completely dissipate from society even with a vaccine and we as a nation may experience another rise in transmission during 2021 and possible government shutdowns. The events industry must be flexible and ready to respond to the change in the environment to maintain some financial stability and continued growth.  Alternative methods for delivering events should be considered and factored into the planning process with a viable contingency if immediate change is required. 

Get your Hunter Wellington Boots on and book a ticket for Parklife outdoor music festival September 2021.

Staffordshire Business School – Research update

Staffordshire Business School aspires to be a leader in making a real impact on business and society through research and innovation. Our team have successfully delivered many industry/business and government funded research projects and have extensive experience of leading large team projects including local, UK, EU and internationally funded projects. Many of our team members combine rich industry and practitioner experience with academic rigour in conducting world-leading research in the areas of entrepreneurship and innovation, digital transformation, environmental health etc. Here are some of the exciting research projects that researchers at Business School have been doing:


Austerity, Welfare and Work: Exploring Politics, Geographies and Inequalities

In his new book, Prof David Etherington provides bold and fresh perspectives on the link between welfare policy and employment relations as he assesses their fundamental impact on social inequalities. Drawing on international and national case studies, the book reviews developments, including rising job insecurity, low pay and geographical inequalities.

Environmental health inequalities resource package

Prof Jon Fairburn is the lead author of a recent World Health Organization publication. The publication is aimed at local, regional and national policy makers hoping to improve environmental health especially for deprived and other groups. Jon has been collaborating with WHO for over 10 years on this subject.

Covid-19 and Smart Cities – What’s Changed? Getting ahead of the Game

Prof Fang Zhao and her team have been conducting research and analysis of a range of changing scenarios of smart cities in post-Covid-19 and pinpoint the opportunities and challenges for businesses, city councils and universities. Their research focuses on strategies, tactics and digital transformation.

The Impact of COVID-19 on BAME Owned Businesses in the UK

The project led by Dr Tolulope Olarewaju is investigating the specific challenges that BAME business owners faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the strategies that they used to keep their businesses afloat, and how they engaged with financial and regional support. The project is funded by the British Academy.

People, Place and Global Order: Foundations of a Networked Political Economy

This book co-authored by Dr Andrew Taylor explores how the convergence of technology and globalisation is shifting value creation out of products and processes and into digital networks and, in the process, leaving many people behind. He is looking into examples and models of how people and place may flourish within global networks. 

Leadership typology reveals how smart city leaders prefer to tackle inequality

The research of Associate Professor Alyson Nicholds sheds light on how leaders, operating in different organisations, roles and sectors prefer to tackle inequality differently. Her latest writing draws on organisational concepts of leadership and philosophy to show the benefits this type of understanding can reap for society.

Entrepreneurs in Residence

Business School has recently appointed Entrepreneurs in Residence providing students and staff with hands-on experience in conducting research to spot business opportunities, conduct market analysis and better understand consumer behaviour, leading to business venture creation.

For more information and collaboration and partnership, please contact Prof Fang Zhao – Associate Dean Research and Enterprise at fang.zhao@staffs.ac.uk.

Covid-19 and the Stay-at-Home Economy

Fang Zhao, Professor of Innovation and Strategy & Associate Dean Research and Enterprise, Staffordshire Business School


Covid-19 outbreak is not only a global health crisis but also an imminent economic shock. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the UK economy could shrink by a record 35% by June 2020 with over 2 million job losses. The International Monetary Fund warned Covid-19 would push the UK into its deepest recession for a century.

Image: BBC – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52279871

For businesses, it is estimated that the government’s lockdowns may cost 800,000 to 1 million business closures in the UK. The sector that is affected the most and is also the most vulnerable is small businesses which account for 96% of all businesses in the UK (Business Statistics, 2019). To prevent the catastrophic structural economic damage and mitigate the huge spike in unemployment, sound economic policy responses are urgently needed, which goes far beyond government handouts.

Image: BBC – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52279871

Economic restructuring is already happening. Cloud computing, e-commerce, online entertainment and delivery business are booming, being inflated by a huge surge in demand while retail (e.g. shops, pubs and restaurants) and entertainment industries (e.g. cinemas, theatres, and theme parks) and many others are suffering from heavy losses. Policy makers are confronting with the unprecedented daunting tasks to make strategic decisions on how to deal with the pandemic economic restructuring and crisis.

The pandemic outbreak has fuelled disproportionately the so-called ‘stay-at-home economy’. Working from home is becoming a new norm. For many this is the beginning of a new life and a new way of work for years to come. The implication for business is that it is time to rethink and reposition existing business models, processes, and target markets because consumer behaviours are changing fast and life will never be the same again.

Although small businesses are the hardest hit, they are also the most agile ones.  Some small businesses have already responded and adapted quickly to market changes. For examples, some have moved their businesses entirely online and some shifted their target market from restaurants and hotels to individual consumers or new markets. New businesses are also emerging surrounding the stay-at-home economy, such as virtual hair salons and online gym classes. Over the longer term, Covid-19 has irrevocably changed the way businesses will run and compete over the next decade.

Researchers at Staffordshire Business School are working hard to help better understand the impacts of Covid-19 on the economy and society and help policy makers develop strategies to tackle the economic fallout and revive the economy. Our staff are also conducting research on the changing behaviours of consumers due to Covid-19. For more information on our research and partnerships, please contact Professor Fang Zhao, Associate Dean – Research and Enterprise at fang.zhao@staffs.ac.uk.