Yesterday, representatives of the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) met online with the Hon Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment to plead for targeted support for businesses reliant upon income from business events.
BECA Deputy Chair, Geoff Donaghy stated, “Survival of the complete visitor and events supply chain is our number one priority, along with maintaining their skilled workforce. If we are to be match fit for domestic recovery and deliver global best practice to our international clients for which we are recognised when the border reopens, retaining our people is essential.”
“With minimal opportunity to earn revenue over the past 18 months, the current Delta lockdowns across Australia are directly impacting lives and livelihoods and the core capability of our dynamic industry.”
BECA has called for an urgent bundle of targeted measures as a lifeline towards recovery:
- SURVIVAL – The return of a national wage subsidy scheme to support business survival and retention of specialist industry skills.
- CONFIDENCE – The introduction of a national, Commonwealth Government led event insurance scheme, achieved in partnership with state and territory governments, to cover for government-enforced cancellations and postponements resulting from COVID-19 restrictions.
- RECOVERY – Introduce an improved Business Events Grant Program to stimulate demand of in-person business events in 2022, via corporate and association event owners.
The vaccination rollout is an essential part of the solution, however the 4-phase National Plan to transition Australia’s COVID-19 Response provides little clarity for when meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions can restart across the country.
While COVID-19 business support grants and disaster payments are welcome – delivered through 50/50 funding arrangements between the Commonwealth and State/Territory governments for declared lockdown periods – they fall short for the business events industry.
The various state designed grants make it difficult for a national industry to navigate eligibility and access, especially when it is reliant on interstate services, labour, and equipment that receives no direct support. They do little to maintain the critical connection between employers and employees when survival is the priority, which will erode the events skill base and seriously undermine any recovery pathway.
Furthermore, the ‘ripple effect’ of lockdowns have restricted the ability of delegates and exhibitors to travel freely within Australia, threatening the commercial viability of in-person business events in destinations that are open to host them.
“When restrictions lift, business events cannot simply switch on like other industries. Significant lead time is required to book, plan, and deliver business events, which is why targeted and sustained support for our sector is required into 2022,” said Donaghy.
In the absence of certainty, and through no fault of the business events industry itself, governments must take action to sustain the sector that would otherwise be contributing $36 billion to the economy each year and employ 230,000 people.