Conference industry could collapse, event organisers warn

Organisers say 90% of conferences planned up to next summer have been cancelled

There is mounting concern that long-term travel restrictions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic could cause irreparable damage to the conference sector.

Some €200 million in revenue is at risk over the next three years due to the cancellation of conferences locally, with event organisers warning the industry could collapse.

The Association of Irish Professional Conference Organisers (Aipco), which represents 10 leading event companies that between them employ 230 people, said 90 per cent of international conferences scheduled to take place between now and next summer have already been cancelled.

There is mounting concern that long-term travel restrictions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic could cause irreparable damage to the sector.

Aipco members collectively organise an average of 96 conferences a year which are attended by more than 32,000 delegates. They say that they are facing substantial financial challenges or company closures due to lack of revenue and huge expenses linked to organising events.


In addition, in situations where conferences are cancelled, organisers usually issue full refunds to delegates.

"International conferences deliver business tourism worth €74 million to the Irish economy every year, and the benefit of that spend is enjoyed far beyond the immediate conference venue. We believe the value of the industry supports 20,000 jobs, not to mention the direct jobs created by our members," said Aipco chair Ronan Flood.

“With little or no events between now and next summer, we are concerned that our industry could collapse, and there will be no infrastructure left to enable these events for at least the next three years, added Mr Flood, who is also managing director of the Advantage Group.

Survival plan

The organisation has announced a seven-point survival plan that includes providing Fáilte Ireland with increased resources, extending the wage subsidy scheme, introducing a hardship grant and scrapping VAT for business tourism.

Mr Flood said uncertainty about when things might return to normal has led to a dramatic fall-off in planning for events, with organisations reluctant to proceed with conferences until there is further clarity.

Aipco's warning comes just over a week after another representative body, Event Industry Ireland, warned that more than half of businesses in the sector may not survive 2020.

It also comes as Web Summit, the tech conference that started in Dublin before relocating to Lisbon, Portugal, this week announced it intends to proceed with the event in November.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist