'Brace for the boom'
Matalon predicts increased demand upon sector's reopeningMonday, June 21, 2021
BY KEDIESHA PERRY
AS members of the entertainment industry await word about its reopening, Gary Matalon, CEO of Kingston Live Entertainment (KLE) Group, is advising all stakeholders to brace for an increase in demand by patrons once the green light is given.
“I would say to ensure they are ready to capitalise on the pent-up demand that exists. In addition, it's a great opportunity to reinvent yourself. Hit the market with a fresh presence. Differentiate yourself as you re-enter the market. New opportunities will emerge as well. Keep a keen eye on these things and position accordingly,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
On June 8, Olivia “Babsy” Grange, minister of entertainment and culture, said Prime Minister Andrew Holness will make an announcement about the industry's reopening tomorrow. She was speaking in the House of Representatives while making her contribution to the 2021/2022 Sectoral Debate.
Meanwhile, Matalon said he is banking on optimism about the impending reopening.
“When the pandemic began many scientists, government officials, and business people spoke with optimism, suggesting we would bounce back in short order. Fourteen months later we are still suffering from the effects of the pandemic, and although with progress made with vaccinations rolling out, there are still major risks at play,” he said.
He believes that more emphasis should be placed on protocols as opposed to a complete suspension of activities.
“From a business perspective, it's 12 months too late for many businesses. From a health perspective, I stand guided by the experts. In my unprofessional opinion, I do believe we should have been able to open up more than we have. My opinion is that focus should be placed on protocols and vaccinations as opposed to lockdowns. That may be idealistic given the resources we have to work with to manage these things,” Matalon added.
In February, chairman of the Entertainment Advisory Board, Howard McIntosh, noted that pre-COVID-19 “Jamaica was looking at an approximately $200-billion economy from the ECCI [entertainment, cultural, and creative industries] or 9.3 per cent of the country's gross domestic product [GDP]”.
This data was retrieved from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica.
He added that since the suspension of the industry there has been a $195-billion annual economic loss.
Matalon said there were many untold stories about the severity of the suspension on entertainment entities.
“We [KLE Group] have been thinking about reopening since the restrictions began in March last year. The problem is that, while many companies have flourished in this environment, there are other sectors, such as entertainment, that have been decimated. Businesses have had to go with little or, in some cases, zero revenue for extended periods of time, not many balance sheets can sustain this, ultimately rendering some businesses virtually bankrupt. In Jamaica, we may hear about this less than we do in say the US or UK, but it's widespread. Our market is smaller and relationships with vendors, lenders, and other stakeholders allow for increased flexibility than may exist in other markets,” he said.
At the same time, he is encouraging the Government to seek support from the private sector where necessary.
“I think the Government has a very difficult job, and regardless of what is done, it will come under heavy criticism from the public. While I understand resources are limited, my hope is that the Government would spend more time making decisions on an industry-specific basis where possible. I can give many examples where blanket restrictions have killed certain businesses when the intended outcome could have been achieved otherwise. I suggest, where resources are short, engage the private sector to help. We are willing to help and, like the Government, we need more than ever to get beyond this,” Matalon added.
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