Fri, 22 Sep 2023

LONDON, England: Due to the uncertainty caused by the Omicron variant of COVID-19,, major companies, including NatWest, Aviva, Deloitte and KPMG, are holding smaller Christmas parties within departments, rather than larger, company-wide events, and attendance for employees will be a personal choice.

Still, businesses in the events industry said they hoped for contracts for big parties to help them recoup losses.

According to a survey of 2,000 office workers commissioned by COVID-19 testing company Prenetics, some 52 percent of UK companies have decided to not hold Christmas parties this season.

The UK government said there is no need to cancel Christmas parties, despite the emergence of the Omicron variant, with people being encouraged to obtain booster vaccines.

However, it has been reported that the UK National Health Service has asked its providers' staff "not to mix in big groups" in the run-up to Christmas.

In an interview with the BBC, Sir Martin Sorrell, executive chairman of advertising agency S4 Capital, said among its clients, there has been "a sharp series of cancellations since this [Omicron] happened just three, four, five days ago."

"The uncertainty is extreme. And government policy, understandably, to be a little bit sympathetic to the government, it is an extremely difficult situation," he added.

NatWest bank, which employs nearly 60,000 full-time staff, urged employees to take a lateral flow test before attending team events.

However, Rosie McInerney, people and talent lead at broadband provider Cuckoo, said there continues to be "so much value in all getting together as a business," she told the BBC.

The emergence of the Omicron variant has not caused restrictions to be placed on hospitality, but businesses claim customers are more reluctant to leave their homes to eat and drink.

In an interview with the BBC, Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said he would have "absolutely loved" to have seen the return of Christmas parties this year, but bookings had "stalled" since the emergence of Omicron.

"The government needs to recognize that, while restrictions are not in place for the hospitality and night time economy sectors, we are reliving the moments of March 2020 where the prime minister asked people not to go to pubs, bars, clubs and theaters," he added, as reported by the BBC.

Design My Night, a digital platform which allows people to book restaurants, bars and pubs, said it witnessed a rise in customers canceling bookings for December.

Hospitality has been one of the most severely affected industries by the COVID-19 pandemic, with pubs, hotels and restaurants closing during three lockdowns.

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