Edinburgh's EICC says business looking good despite £1.7 million loss due to Covid
and live on Freeview channel 276
Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.
EICC chief executive Marshall Dallas said although the centre in Morrison Street was forced to close for most of 2020 because of Covid, it had used the time to secure almost £5 million worth of new events for future years.
And he told councillors alternative online and hybrid options were likely to remain popular alongside a return to in-person gatherings.
A report to the council’s housing and fair work committee showed the EICC, an arms-length council company, made a loss of £1,721,998 in the year to December 2020, compared to a profit of £623,483 in the previous year.
And the report forecast an operating deficit of approximately £800,000 for the year ending December 31, 2021 – but councillors were told the figure had now been revised and the latest projection was there would be an operating profit of £250,000.
The Covid lockdown had forced the closure of the conference centre in March 2020 and it was left facing a potential operating deficit of £5-6m.
But a series of measures – minimising operating costs, launching a virtual conferencing service and putting staff on furlough – helped to reduce that dramatically.
Mr Dallas said air conditioning and boiler systems were only used on a limited basis, generating savings on gas and electricity; and the centre’s cleaning and most of security staff were relocated to the contractors’ other sites.
The eventual deficit was financed from EICC’s own reserves without any call being made on council finances and no-one had to be made redundant.
Mr Dallas hailed the financial performance as a “considerable achievement” given the centre was unable to operate for 41 weeks of the year and the 11 weeks in which it was open for business were traditionally the worst-performing months of the year.
He said sales staff had successfully negotiated contracts for events to be held at the centre in future years, some of them on a multi-year basis.
“Over £3m worth of revenues were generated for future years during 2020 from clients who had initially been looking to cancel their events.”
And altogether 60 new events worth £4.83m were contracted during 2020. “This is a remarkable achievement give the uncertainty that has been caused by the pandemic.”
Mr Dallas also highlighted the alternative online event platforms the EICC had developed for clients, which even include a corporate dining at home package.
“The [EICC] executive these event options will continue to generate revenue in the future, albeit the industry feedback suggests a real, deep desire to get back to face-to-face live events.”
He said an increasing number of companies were keen to follow the example of the TED conference hosted at the EICC last month where the event is recorded and put online afterwards.
But he stressed: “There is no question people want to come back and meet face to face because time and time again I’m told the true value of an event is the networking and the ability to meet new people and discuss ideas. There are benefits to what we have done in terms of the online side, but it will never take away from meeting face to face.”