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Czech meeting leaders in plea for support as 114,000 jobs threatened

Meetings and events leaders in the Czech Republic have pleaded for government support and say without it up to 114,000 jobs are at risk.

An alliance of industry organisations – including the Czech Event Association, the Prague Convention Bureau, the Czech Alliance of PCOs and others – has warned that the impact on conferences, trade fairs and cultural events from the COVID-19 pandemic will be ‘enormous’.

According to the latest Economic Impact study conducted for the CzechTourism agency and the Czech Event Association in summer 2020, spending in the sector could be as low as CZK27.1bn (US$1.21bn) for 2020. Typically, the annual figure would be expected to come in around CZK99bn.

The meetings, event and trade fair industries also provide a significant source of employment, the report said.  The industry was expected to generate 160,000 full-time jobs in 2020.  Up to 71% are now at risk.

Meanwhile the absence of conferences from the events calendar means the knowledge and expertise that would normally flow into the country has simply dried up, and with it the potential for international collaboration.

According to the Prague Convention Bureau, all congresses and conferences originally planned for 2020 in Prague, including autumn dates, have been rescheduled to 2021 or later, or even cancelled without compensation.

The industry alliance – which also includes Trade Fairs Brno, O2 universum, and Prague Congress Centre – has outlined a set of potential support measures, including financial incentives, reducing VAT on event registration, and support for marketing campaigns, which it has sent to the government.

Roman Muška, managing director of the Prague Convention Bureau, said: “In the last decade, the congress industry in the Czech Republic has been on the rise. According to data from the Czech Statistical Office, which monitors only conferences and congresses in mass accommodation establishments with an attendance of more than 50 delegates, the number of such events has been continuously increasing since 2009 in the Czech Republic. In 2019, the number reached a record of 14,726 events attended by almost 1.5 million people. Therefore, our common goal is primarily to support the demand for events in the Czech Republic and at the same time to maintain the long-term position of the destination in international competition.”

Jan Herget, managing director of CzechTourism, added:  “Congress tourism is key to the economic development, as it brings solvent international clientele to the Czech Republic, and at the same time it contributes to the development of international scientific cooperation. The average daily expenditure of a foreign participant in Prague is estimated at CZK 5,756, which is roughly twice the total average expenditure of an ordinary tourist,” said, adding: “Unfortunately, this sector is among the most affected. Mass events have been cancelled as one of the first, due to the spread of coronavirus, and are among the last to start taking place again. Public budgets will thus lose up to CZK 37 billion this year alone.

Lenka Žlebková, CEO of the Prague Congress Centre, said: “In addition to the economic benefits of this sector, we should not forget the scientific and innovative impacts of international professional meetings and conferences. Thanks to its extended reach, this segment helps to strengthen the position and competitiveness of the Czech Republic internationally. Inaction will result not only in a temporary decline of the industry but also a significant long-term loss of position on the international market and the absence of prestigious professional events over the next decade.”