It’s the major Dutch arena that was to host Eurovision 2020. But the Covid-19 pandemic is taking its toll on the venue, as Rotterdam Ahoy management have announced they will be laying off 100 staff — 40% of its workforce.
Dutch national newspaper de Volkskrant has reported on the arena’s massive staff reorganisation, which will result in Ahoy laying off 100 of its 270 permanent employees.
Ahoy’s director Jolanda Jansen was blunt when explaining the situation Ahoy faced. She said, “It is really a bloodbath. I think it’s dramatic. Our turnover was reduced from 45 million euros to 0. There is simply no work, the catering industry has come to a complete standstill. We cannot do otherwise.”
While Rotterdam Ahoy is scheduled to be the home of Eurovision 2021, things have otherwise been very quiet for the venue. It was forced to close its doors in March, when the Dutch government prohibited large-scale events in an efforts to slow the spread of Covid. As well as Eurovision 2020 being cancelled, Ahoy also lost hosting the Korfball League Finale, European Championship handball qualifications, as well as many other smaller events.
The newspaper notes that the Ahoy is only profitable when its halls are at least three-quarters occupied. But this simply hasn’t been possible in recent months. And as Jansen explained, despite investment in new facilities, “We still have a gapingly empty calendar.”
A tough time for the events industry
Ahoy isn’t alone — other companies in the events industry are also in similar positions and are having to cut jobs.
Jansen has called on the Dutch government to extend its Temporary Emergency Bridging Measure for Employment (NOW) scheme, where the government subsidises wages for businesses who have seen at least a 20% decrease in turnover. However, the NOW scheme ends on 1 October.
But Ahoy is still planning for the future. The arena has recently commissioned Delft University of Technology to conduct a study looking at the airflow capability of the arena. Jansen says, “The preliminary results show that we can blow 100% outside air in, we have a lot of cubic meters of air that contribute to the safety of visitors in Ahoy.” Good airflow is considered an important factor in reducing the spread of the coronavirus indoors.
The shows go on
Despite the Covid restrictions, Ahoy hasn’t been totally dark over recent months. In March, the venue was transformed into a temporary health centre to ease demand on hospitals during the peak pandemic.
In July, the Dutch government eased Covid restrictions, allowing large events to take place again — with some precautions. Venues must pre-check attendees confirming they don’t have Covid symptoms, attendees must be seated and be spaced at least 1.5 metres apart. As well, attendees are not allowed to scream, shout or sing during the event.
Later that month, Ahoy hosted a special screening of the Netflix film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. The event featured a live performance of “Husavik” by Dutch Eurovision star Edsilia Rombley.
The venue has also been confirmed as hosting the Dutch Junior Eurovision national final in September. However, the arena audience will be limited to only family members of the competing acts.
Earlier this week, Eurovision 2021 Event Supervisor Nadja Burkhardt revealed that organisers are planning two scenarios for the next edition of the song contest. One is Eurovision in its usual format as an arena show with an audience, the other is a version aiming at containing spread of the virus.