I thank the committee for the invitation to attend today to engage with it on reopening the economy with regard to the arts and entertainment sector. I am a co-founder of the Event Industry Association of Ireland, EIAI. Established in 2013, the EIAI was founded by a group of event practitioners and industry experts with the aim of improving the overall event industry in Ireland. Attending with me is Mr. David Mongey, managing director of Mongey Communications, a core service provider to the industry for over 40 years.
We are here today representing an estimated 45,000 workers and an industry that annually generates in excess of €3.5 billion for the Irish economy and €850 million for the Irish export market. At the immediate onset of Covid-19, the event industry suffered disproportionately to all other sectors and we now need to prepare for the long-term implications of dealing with Covid-19 into 2021 and potentially beyond.
The Arts Council of Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, as well as local authorities and development agencies all over Ireland, have identified the strategic importance of festivals and event in their strategies for at least the past 20 years. The event industry underpinning these events of strategic national importance is unique, intricate and often misunderstood. Our "front of house" comprises a bustling calendar of events, world-class entertainment and a kaleidoscope of sporting, business, corporate, leisure, cultural and social experiences. This often distracts from the ecosystem behind the scenes. Here one will find an industry powered by resilience, determination and devotion to the promotion of our arts, business, culture, heritage, innovation and tourism sectors, while supporting the national economy and, most crucially, delivering experiences that exceed expectations, entertain, connect communities and enhance our attendees’ quality of life.
We are grateful to the Government and commend it on its prompt and effective application of valuable supports that immediately provided a degree of comfort across our industry. We are, however, filled with apprehension when considering our industry's ability to generate income while we await the lifting of restrictions. With no definitive start date and the knowledge that even when the date arrives, our industry will not be able to resume business as usual, we understand there will be slow but steady progress.
The public health safeguarding measures implemented by the Government to date and the anticipated duration of these measures, while absolutely necessarily, essentially mean the majority of our businesses, organisers and workers are simply unable to generate revenue now and for the foreseeable future.
The situation is unprecedented and absolutely devastating. The Irish event industry, usually an extremely ambitious, active and competitive industry, is facing a prolonged hibernation period which has already affected our entire ecosystem on a short, medium and long-term basis.
In addition to the impact on businesses, Covid-19 has resulted in the loss of livelihood and potential loss of industry-specific skilled workers who may abandon employment in the industry in the future. It is important to note that many of the specialist roles required in the event industry are highly skilled and industry-specific and were in high demand and short supply coming into this crisis. Due to the seasonal nature of the industry, with January and February being notoriously quiet and inactive, a large portion of our workforce had not yet been employed and, as such, did not qualify under the temporary wage subsidy scheme.
As with a large segment of workers, artists, performers and entertainers excluded, many festival events and cultural activities also sit outside the remit of Arts Council and Fáilte Ireland funding criteria, therefore, the support package allocated to the Arts Council and Fáilte Ireland will not and could not adequately filter down through the industry ecosystem. We are calling on our Government to: recognise that this sector is one of the last remaining sectors that has not been provided with a pathway to or a date for reopening and, as such, requires a unique suite of supports, and that, as part of this process, the additional funding provided to the Arts Council will at best reach only a portion of our sector; recognise the event industry in its own right to acknowledge it for the valuable economic sector it is, assign direct responsibility for it to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and immediately establish an event industry task force to engage with and support the industry to deliver a roadmap on future sustainability; continue the temporary wage subsidy scheme for our sector until such time as restrictions with regard to mass gatherings are removed; protect and support each part of our sector - our workers, volunteers, performers, venues, SMEs, promoters, our smorgasbord of community events right up to our national hallmark events and our stakeholders - to ensure that our ecosystem endures and that our professionalism, expertise and vital skill sets are retained; enable and resource the event industry to utilise this recovery period to address the new challenges presented by Covid-19; and improve industry best practice, standards and professional competency, safeguarding our ability to deliver a safe and successful future.
I thank the committee for the opportunity to discuss these issues. My colleague and I are happy to take questions from the members on this matter. I request that they turn to page 2 of our submission as we will be referring to it in the question-and-answer session.