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Capped venue capacity makes hosting events unviable, says SA conference industry | Fin24

The events industry in Africa is expected to only recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.
The events industry in Africa is expected to only recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

The events industry in Africa is expected to only recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

  • The current cap of 50% on venue capacity is making it hard to host economically viable events in SA, according to the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry.
  • It means the cost remains the same as it would for a full capacity event, but the organiser may only use half of the venue space.
  • The events industry has, therefore, called on government to use the 50% venue cap only as a guideline and allow local governments to have oversight on the hosting of large events. 

The ongoing 50% cap on venue capacity is making South African events and exhibitions economically unviable, says Glenton de Kock, CEO of the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI). 

While it allows for business events and exhibitions such as Meeting Africa, Propack, WTM Africa, the Mama Magic Baby Expo, and most recently the Mining Indaba to take place, venues and attendees are capped due to the restrictions.

“This means the cost remains the same as it would for a full capacity event, but the organiser may only use half of the venue space. Also, attendees are required to produce proof of vaccination, which makes the events industry the only mandated vaccinated economic sector by the South African government,” De Kock told Fin24.

SAACI has urged the government to consider the negative economic and employment impact of keeping this regulation in place and has made proposals on what a more sustainable approach might be.

In SAACI’s view, it may be best to have the regulations as guidelines and allow the events industry, which is already regulated by the Safety at Sports and Recreation Events Act, to self-regulate. The organisation proposes oversight can be placed with local authorities about allowing large business events and exhibitions.

“We need to understand that the events industry is the engine room for powering the recovery of the economy,” says De Kock. “We still need to get a push from the private sector, which has kept their business or incentive meetings to a minimum.”

READ | Room rates, occupancy nearly double as Cape Town tourism bounces back

During a recent briefing to the events industry hosted by Deputy Tourism Minister Fish Mahlalela at the Century City Convention Centre in Cape Town, he said government remained committed to growing the business events industry and is steadfast with its efforts and investment in this regard.

He said the events industry in Africa is expected to only recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

Both Mahlalela and SA Tourism’s chief convention bureau officer Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo emphasised that key to fully realising the growth of the events industry will be collaborations with various role players in the South African and greater African business events sector.

Data from the latest SA Tourism business events industry performance outlook indicates that the value of the South African business events industry dropped from $6.9 billion in 2019 (therefore, pre-pandemic) to $1.6 billion in 2020. However, projections indicate the value could reach $7.4 billion by 2024 and $10.2 billion by 2028.

In the view of the SANCB, Africa is poised to be one of the fastest-growing business event regions, with Namibia and Ghana set to be the fastest-growing events destinations on the continent between 2021 and 2028.

The incentives component of the events industry is expected to show the fastest growth on the continent. The SANCB believes this presents substantial opportunities for corporate meetings and company incentives.

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Weddings, funerals and other events to be permitted at full capacity as B.C. lifts some COVID-19 restrictions

Weddings, funerals and other events to be permitted at full capacity as B.C. lifts some COVID-19 restrictions

Weddings and other indoor and outdoor organized gatherings will be permitted to resume in B.C. this week, health officials announced Tuesday.

Changes to many restrictions come into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 16, though some limits will remain. For example, guests at organized events will need to show proof of vaccination through the B.C. Vaccine Card.

Masks will also be required, but there won’t be capacity limits and dancing will be allowed at the events.

“I’m just so excited. This is the right thing to do and this is the perfect timing,” Liting Chan, owner of Paradise Events, told CTV News Vancouver as the changes were announced. “This gives us a great hope and we can start to plan weddings.”

Organized events like wedding and funeral receptions were prohibited in December, when B.C. was dealing with a surge in cases due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Even small organized events weren’t permitted.

Chan said the frequent changes in restrictions impacted some couples for years.

“I have a couple with me since 2019, so this will be their third year and finally they can have their dream wedding,” she said.

While masks and proof of vaccination will still be required, Chan said she doesn’t think that’ll be a big issue.

“I don’t think that’s a big deal. Look, we’re here to follow whatever the health authority thinks is safe,” she said. “Personally I don’t have any issue, my clients don’t have issues.”

Chan expects the news means there will be a lot of weddings this summer.

“I think it’s probably going to be the busiest year for many, many years,” she said. 

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B.C.’s live events industry optimistic capacity limit will be lifted Tuesday

B.C.'s live events industry optimistic capacity limit will be lifted Tuesday

Indoor seated venues have been allowed to remain open during the Omicron wave in British Columbia – but since Dec. 21, they’ve had to maintain a 50 per cent capacity limit, and that’s been devastating for their bottom line.

“For us, it limits the revenue we can produce and the number of tickets we can sell for certain movies, and it was particularly harmful over the Christmas period,” said Bill Walker, CEO of Landmark Cinemas.

The Arts Club Theatre has also taken a large financial hit.

“Our finances are based on the capacity to sell up to 100 per cent, so it is a real strain on us to have the reduction,” said associate artistic director Rachel Peake.

Some concerts and festivals that were scheduled for early in 2022 have been postponed because of the capacity restriction.

“The 50 per cent model does not work financially, and we have seen that. Everything that was in the books was cancelled and cancelled and cancelled. So certainly tomorrow we are really hoping we will get the full capacity for indoor seated venues back,” said Paul Runnals with Brand Live Management.

With other provinces now starting to lift capacity restrictions, the live event industry is optimistic provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry will announce an end to the measure in B.C during a press conference Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

“It would be difficult to imagine how the province doesn’t, as every other province has done just that,“ said Walker. “There are different nuances around masking and vaccines, but overall, every other province is moving back to full capacity, and so we expect B.C. will do the same.”

If that happens, Runnals says live event planners in B.C. are prepared to hit the ground running.

“Many in our sector are poised and ready to go, we are just waiting to get that certainty. And that’s really what we are looking for tomorrow is clarification and a timeline, and then we can take that away and get cracking on things,” he said.

The industry is less concerned if mask mandate and vaccine passport restrictions remain in place.

“We don’t find it to be that difficult or detrimental for us to manage, we are all used to it,” said Walker. Runnals thinks it would be smart to keep those measures in place for awhile longer, while lifting the indoor capacity restriction.

“I think the public are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, and the confidence we will start seeing our major events coming back,” he said.

Peake agrees the demand is there, and is hopeful the Arts Club Theatre’s next stage show, “Kim’s Convenience,” will be allowed to offer all seats for sale.

“So that’s definitely the ideal scenario. That’s really what we are hoping for at this point,” she said.

The industry remains in the dark about what could be announced at Tuesday’s press conference.

“We have not heard any insights,” said Walker.” Every now and again we will get an advanced look at something; on this, we have no idea.”

With many live events — and livelihoods — now hanging in the balance, Runnals says everyone is anxiously awaiting word, adding: ”Lots of eyes are going to be watching that announcement tomorrow.”

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Manitoba to drop capacity limits next week, eliminate mask mandates by mid-March | CBC News

Manitoba to drop capacity limits next week, eliminate mask mandates by mid-March | CBC News

Manitoba will eliminate capacity limits for many businesses and other venues starting Tuesday as the province further loosens public health orders and eliminate mask requirements on March 15.

The province also intends to remove all proof of vaccination requirements on March 1, which means vaccination cards will no longer be needed.

All restrictions will end March 15, Premier Heather Stefanson said at a Friday morning news conference.

“Today we offer hope to those who have been waiting for a long time to see that light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

“The restrictions have placed many burdens on Manitobans, and now that we see the pressure of our hospital systems starting to ease, it’s our responsibility of government to ease those restrictions on Manitobans.”

On Tuesday, pandemic capacity limits will be dropped for restaurants, licensed premises, entertainment venues, indoor and outdoor sporting events and casinos and gatherings at private residences.

They will also be removed for outdoor public gatherings.

Indoor public gathering limits will be removed if proof of vaccination is required to enter. If not, the limit will be 50 people.

Anyone age 12 to 17 who is participating in indoor sports and recreation will no longer be required to provide proof of vaccination or recent testing.

There are no changes to retail and personal services until March.

Also as of Tuesday, unvaccinated close contacts of a person who tests positive for COVID-19 will no longer be required to self-isolate.

Public health continues to recommend self-isolation for people who live in a household with someone who has symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, but it will no longer be required.

Self-isolation requirements for people entering the province will also be discontinued. However, anyone travelling from international destinations will continue to be required to meet requirements under the federal Quarantine Act.

Public health orders restricting travel to northern Manitoba remain in place.

“Based on the information and data monitored by public health, we are seeing strong signals that the Omicron wave has peaked and is now having a reduced impact here in Manitoba,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer.

“So we are certainly turning the corner in the pandemic.”

But it is not over yet, he said, adding Manitoba is in “an important time of transition” that still requires people to get vaccinated and stay home when sick.

Though gathering limits will no longer be required, they are still strongly recommended, he said.

The changes — which are coming a week earlier than the current restrictions were initially set to expire — will include moving Manitoba to the yellow caution level under the province’s pandemic response system from the current restricted orange level.

School changes

Schools will also return to yellow, which means cohorts are only required in kindergarten to Grade 6. Masks are required indoors for staff and students but will not be required during physical education classes.

Medical masks will be recommended but no longer required for school staff.

Schools will continue to send out community notification letters if public health officials have identified increased transmission or recommended remote learning for a class, cohort or entire school.

As well, Manitoba’s online dashboard will continue to post this information but will no longer include case numbers, the province said in a release.

Children, school staff and child-care staff will only be eligible for PCR testing if medically indicated, in line with eligibility criteria for all Manitobans.

In some settings, such as personal care homes, shelters and health-care facilities, public health officials have continued to work with facilities to notify close contacts of people who test positive, but that will end on March 8, the province said in a news release.

Health group disappointed

The Manitoba Health Coalition, a non-profit health-care advocacy group, released a statement on Friday expressing its disappointment with the changes.

It suggested the province is responding to the anti-restrictions convoy set up outside the legislative building and international border.

“It is disheartening that the provincial government has chosen to reject the reality facing our health-care system in favour of catering to extreme voices that do not reflect the view of Manitobans,” coalition provincial director Thomas Linner said in a news release.

Patients are still being transferred out of their home communities for critical care due to staff shortages and overwhelmed hospitals in the province, while the backlog for surgical and diagnostic tests remains in excess of 150,000 because of the ongoing demand on the system, he said.

There have also been 29 deaths due to COVID-19 this week.

“The protest movement camped outside the legislative building has blocked access to health facilities, schools and the Emerson border crossing to the United States.

“This is not a movement that deserves to be catered to with political victories that will hurt families, overworked and understaffed front-line health-care workers and the most vulnerable Manitobans,” he said in the news release.

“Manitobans deserve better.”

Stefanson denied she is capitulating to the demands of the protesters, telling reporters that discussions toward reopening have been going on for some time as the data began to improve.

“The data is now telling us that the ICUs are on decline, the ICU capacity for COVID patients is on decline, the hospitalization capacity is on decline, so now it’s time to safely move forward with the reduction of these restrictions,” she said.

“This was not a decision that was made because of what’s going on and protests that are taking place in the province, this is a decision that is made for Manitobans who have sacrificed much of their lives for the last two years.”

‘Choice to get vaccinated is yours’: Stefanson

Stefanson laid the responsibility for dealing with the protests at the feet of other officials.

The downtown protest is under the purview of the Winnipeg police, she said, adding she has been talking with Mayor Brian Bowman.

On the protest at the border, Stefanson said she has reached out to the prime minister.

“I’ve asked for what is the plan, and his plan, moving forward to deal with this,” she said.

Stefanson and Roussin kept repeating that many statistical indicators back their decision to drop the mandates, yet did not present any supporting data.

When asked where that is, Stefanson brusquely said it would be released, then shrugged in response to a followup question on when.

Roussin then said he would present it next Wednesday at the weekly COVID-19 news conference.

Stefanson, who has stressed the importance of getting vaccinated, toned that message down on Friday. While she said she and her family are fully vaccinated, she added that “the choice to get vaccinated is yours.”

“It’s time for a new normal to begin in Manitoba,” she said.  

“We need to end the divisiveness between families, between communities. We need to move forward. It’s time to bring Manitobans back together again.”

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | Feb. 11, 2022:

Manitoba government daily briefing on coronavirus: Feb. 11

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Friday, Feb. 11, 2022. 45:47