by Ycoy Sitchon
Up until a few weeks ago, the nightmare seemed far-fetched. We knew it was looming on the horizon, but we never thought it could paralyze the lives of people all over the world. Like an impending hurricane, we saw how it crippled countries and continents. And here we are, running like headless chickens amid the upheaval and uncertainty.
Covid-19 is one of the worst tragedies that happened in the service industry and the world, for that matter. Considered a double whammy, it doesn’t only take away the lives of those who got the disease, but even those whose lives suddenly were put on halt because of the enormous economic effects of this pandemic.
The events industry, for one, is taking a beating. Due to cancellation and postponement of events intensified by the inevitable lockdown mandated by the national government, small and medium event enterprises are experiencing the tumultuous financial crisis. The cry of event professionals precisely due to the seeming lack of support from the government stirs panic and anxiety. The sentiment mainly stems from the unclear regulations of policymakers for both service providers and consumers/clients, at least for now. The scenario is far from “win-win,” and the event players are fatally losing.
Apart from the business owners and their full-time employees, the economic turmoil majorly hits the freelancers. Most, if not all, are hanging on by their fingertips even before the Covid-19. The problems facing event companies are symptomatic of a crisis facing the global events industry, from hotels/event venues, caterers to wedding planning companies, event stylists, to freelance photographers/videographers, make up artists, and even bridal gown designers. Both supply and demand are impaired. Truth be told, there is a limit to what the government can do in the event of a combined supply and demand shock. Reality bites, the local events industry is limping from economic pain.
Another truth that slapped us hard in the face – the absence of existing regulatory board for local events industry players encumbers us from fully representing our sector. While there are independent organizations that spearhead the growth and camaraderie among our peers, an event regulatory body/agency to protect us would come in handy in these kinds of situations. Such organizations aim to promote event professionals through certifications and continuing education. Moreover, they can probably utilize an in-house law firm, in-house insurance agency, and professional assistance, even financial aid to members just like in other countries. Due to the lack of this fortress, we go to the battlefield individually.
The existent mayhem leaves us wondering when this will end. And more so, the big question is, when are we going to recover? At present, we feel the crimp caused by the cancellations and postponements. Imagine a full month without a source of income. Consider yourself lucky if clients decide to postpone instead of cancelling. The former means that despite the opportunity loss at present, there’s still hope for a possible income later on. Consider yourself even more fortunate if clients do not ask for a refund, just like what the government recently cited despite the lack of memorandum or conscientious dissection of our contracts.
We are at the cusp of a catastrophe, and there’s no doubt that health comes first. But while the government or health institutions call for postponement of events, we need to cooperate. But what can we do to curb the effects of the pandemic on our livelihood? Due to the market slump and the subsequent concerns faced daily by event companies and freelancers, we need a quick pivot to survive. And we need to start now as one.
There’s a need to be heard. We need to raise our voices, so it echoes to the world. Now is the time to eradicate competition and spearhead cooperation. A solid campaign is necessary to combat the plummeting of the industry lest it will quickly go bust. It is time for us to review our business processes, not as a temporary balm to this crisis, but to form a solid business plan in the years to come. We should take this as an opportunity to reassess our contracts and recalibrate our respective systems. The latter should cover contingency plans and necessary service level agreements. We need to protect our bases for us to sustain this industry that brings food to our table; supports the lives of many; that brings hope and joy to people as they celebrate memorable occasions and milestones. We need to safeguard our employees who heavily rely on us. Our future is their future. It is time to support our peers and help them boost their market presence. Let’s make use of whatever tool or platform available. It will create a ripple effect as presence provokes engagement, and engagement turns to a successful business.
It has been proven time and again, booming companies breathe life into a dwindling industry. Moreover, we need to assure our clients that there’s no room for anxiety. If we forge a strong relationship with them, they will think of our welfare just as we care for theirs. What they are going through is equally painful. Compassion begets compassion. Little sacrifices and adjustments go a long way like rescheduling flexibility and waiving of extra fees. If we are empathetic, we strengthen customer loyalty. Amid the pause, let’s show them what we can accomplish; that the crisis will not contribute to the drop in the level of efficiency – no matter how gruelling it is for us. The unexpected ebb will always lead to the inevitable flow.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of boosting our presence and continued assurance. From an economist’s point of view, our worst fear may materialize. In a service-sector dominated economy, we may not be able to recover our lost output. If people do not support events for the next two to three months, there’s a possibility that they will ultimately lose their appetite to celebrate even after the fear of infection subsides. Events may be cancelled but social media is still there. By amplifying online presence, the beauty and magic of events will neither falter nor forgotten.
The adage suggests, “United we stand, divided we fall.” This challenging time is a call for solidarity. Let’s not be afraid to share our knowledge and to extend a helping hand. If the whole industry crumbles, we are all at great peril. And no matter how immense the knowledge and skills each has, it is futile to build a castle alone out of useless debris. What we need now is to join together as a community and make rational decisions based on facts before it is too late to recover.
Our work is not mere “work.” Passion fuels us to wake up early, stay up late, and do complicated tasks to incite delight. Our events spur creativity, innovation, and experience. Celebrations unite families and friends. They tug at the heartstrings, as we become part of their lives. And this is why we are resilient. We have thousands of reasons to survive. The human race has survived 20 recorded pandemics and emerged stronger every time. I believe that when we recover from this, we should expect incredible innovations and creations – our cup of tea.
Stay strong. We, at La Belle Fete are rooting for all of us!