The challenges to the wedding industry presented by the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the importance of a coordinated voice to represent the industry to the Government and public. The Association of British Wedding Businesses (ABWB) is focusing on three areas to represent the industry during this challenging time:
2. Exit Strategy
3. Promotion of the industry’s position
A significant shock to the industry has been the position that insurance providers have taken regarding both interruption insurance, under our business policies, and wedding insurance, taken out by couples.
The response of the wedding insurance companies has been disappointingly slow. Additionally, we now see some insurance providers declaring they will not pay out despite clear terms that would justify a claim as well as the precedent set by other others paying out on the same claims. The Government’s mantra of “all in this together” does not appear to extend to the insurance companies. The pain and stress imposed on our couples is the most disappointing element of this.
Action To Date
Businesses within the industry have been raising complaints to MPs and the Ombudsman regarding the lack of coverage of business interruption insurance, despite early positive indications from both the Government and brokers.
To date, the wedding industry, led by members of the Association of British Wedding Businesses (ABWB), have made strong representations to MPs, have had responses back from the Treasury Minister, and have publicised an open letter and petition.
The Association of British Wedding Businesses (ABWB) plans to provide ongoing support and representation to those escalating business interruption insurance to the Ombudsman, including:
Seek and support the best cases in response to the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) request for evidence for test cases in court
Publicise the actions of the wedding insurance providers in the press
Make further representations to the Treasury Minister and Treasury Select Committee proactively and in response to calls for evidence
Engage with the insurance industry to improve business insurance policies through wedding-orientated extensions. This includes encouraging clarity of wedding insurance terms and coverage, and creating standard contractual terms for use that align with insurance policies
2: Exit Strategy
There are some critical factors that set weddings aside from other types of social gatherings. Weddings involve guest list restrictions, advanced planning, and vested interest in the health and welfare of fellow friends and family. As such, we believe weddings are uniquely placed within the hospitality industry to support ‘track and trace’ processes which are central to the Government’s plan for releasing lockdown measures. As the Government considers how to re-open the country, we are taking action to encourage the Government to move weddings towards the front of the hospitality sector queue.
Action To Date
A paper has been developed outlining these points, which was submitted through key MP connections. The paper received positive support from MPs and has been forward to the Business, Cabinet and DCMS Secretaries of State for consideration.
Additionally, a submission has been made to the All Party Group for Hospitality and Tourism under their call for evidence to feed into the wider strategy development. Work within the industry is also underway to develop the processes, risk assessments and policies from a Health and Safety standpoint. These will be a key element of our new working practices and provide the necessary confidence to our staff, couples and their guests.
The Association of British Wedding Businesses (ABWB) will continue to work with the Government to develop track and tracing capabilities and processes that set weddings apart from other social gatherings, to progress towards an exit strategy for the industry. Additionally, we will:
Support the development of best practices and processes for managing future safe working
Ensure the case for financial support for wedding businesses is represented during any extension to restrictions
Represent the industry as lockdown restrictions are eased and measurement of their success is undertaken
Ensure updates are shared across our industry
3: Promotion of the industry’s position
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, wedding businesses have had to juggle fighting for their own survival while supporting couples who have had a day they have planned for many months ripped apart. While the industry, at its heart, is driven to make their couple’s days unforgettable, most of the venues and suppliers affected are small businesses without the scale or financial backing to provide protection from such a seismic shock.
Wedding businesses are not well-understood and the level of investment and fixed costs tied up in the delivery of services from booking to the wedding day is rarely appreciated. On-the-day work is the tip of the iceberg, as significant advanced planning and resources have gone into the event to ensure it goes smoothly.
As is inevitably the case, especially in such unforeseeable situations, the actions of the few who have made mistakes taint the reputation of the many. The industry has suffered through a number of stories in the press criticising the actions of some businesses. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has also indicated it will investigate complaints and if proven may take enforcement action against the outliers. In trying to explain the extent of Consumer Rights, the CMA has created misunderstandings and misconceptions that go against its own published documentation that represents a balanced assessment of the difficult situation.
The Association of British Wedding Businesses (ABWB) will support public education and understanding of the wedding industry’s processes and business resources needed to support weddings. Our work will include:
Continue working with the CMA task force to address the situation and seek clarity for the industry
Set up a task force to represent the industry in the press and with the public, and to support investigations and articles
Proactively share positive storylines that dominate the industry