Entertainment sector on long road to recovery – ONS

The arts and entertainment industry is still very much in recovery mode as COVID restrictions are further eased. Figures from the Office for National Statistics shows that 57% of businesses experienced a decrease in turnover compared with normal levels for the time of year (late June 2021), and that the arts, entertainment and recreation industry continues to report the highest proportion of its workforce on furlough at 15%.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “With bands booked and curtains ready to rise on new productions, the easing of restrictions in the next few days could finally give arts and entertainment businesses a much-needed pass to a stronger recovery. Tough social distancing rules have delayed a significant bounce back with more than 50% of businesses in the sector still unable to pull in revenues they would usually expect at this time of year before the pandemic hit. The sector still had the highest number of people on furlough, with the delay to so called ‘freedom day’ in June a major set-back.

“After the mass closures during the first lockdown and the rolling restrictions ever since, it’s been a tortuous journey of trying to drum up enough trade to reopen, but there is progress being made. The industry has seen one of the largest movements in currently trading businesses year on year, increasing from 34% to 91%. Hospitality has also witnessed a dramatic reopening compared to last year, with currently trading businesses jumping from 41% to 94%.”

But the shift from this time last year – when many businesses in the sector were fully closed due to the pandemic – is marked, raising hopes of a sustained recovery during the remainder of 2021. The arts, entertainment and recreation industry, and the accommodation and food service activities industry, have seen the largest movements in currently trading businesses year on year, increasing from 34% to 91%, and 41% to 94% respectively.

Streeter added: “The doors may be open at venues but there are still plenty of challenges to contend with, not least staff absences and forced closures due to current infection spikes. Just as they are getting back on their feet, there are fresh problems being scanned on the horizon. There are warnings coming from the hospitality and entertainment industries that government plans for COVID vaccine passports for some venues would be confusing and unfair and could lead to a fresh wave of permanent closures.”

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