The Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) is deeply concerned and disappointed with the Federal Treasurer’s announcement yesterday to withdraw COVID-19 Disaster Payments in line with vaccination targets being reached by states and territories, without any indication of a targeted replacement lifeline.
This decision does not consider the nature of the business events industry and the restrictions we are still facing, even when states come out of lockdowns.
The industry has been decimated over the past 18 months having to:
- Manage cancellations and postponements due to lockdowns
- Operate restricted business events under strict COVID-19 protocols and capacities
- Operate with limited to no revenue streams
- Deal with a skills exodus as businesses struggle to survive
- Contend with consistent uncertainty
National conferences and exhibitions cannot be brought to market in a matter of two weeks, once an individual state or territory reaches 80% full vaccination, especially while domestic borders remain closed. With significant numbers of delegates and exhibitors not able to freely travel within Australia, the commercial viability of many in-person business events is at risk even if the host destination allows the event to take place. Business events businesses will not resume operation at any great scale when these vaccination milestones are reached.
Geoff Donaghy, BECA Deputy Chair said, “While we are very supportive of the Government’s National Plan and vaccination rollout, it cannot be confused with the ability for the business events industry to trade.
“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.
“It will take 6 to 12 months at least for business events to fully gear up, confirm program content, source sponsors and exhibitors, and market the event to attract delegate registrations.”
The decision to end JobKeeper payments in March devastated the visitor and events sector as it was a key mechanism to keep employees connected to employers and supported productivity in an uncertain environment with limited opportunities to operate. The COVID-19 Disaster Payments have supported the welfare of our workforce during recent lockdowns, but given the uncertainty our sector still faces, we continue to see the leakage of specialist skills to other sectors offering greater stability.
The announcement made by the Treasurer yesterday will see more of our skilled professionals leave, eroding our core capability and making recovery even more challenging.
“Our once successful business events industry that contributed $36 billion to the economy and supported 230,000 jobs pre-pandemic needs the support of Government in this time of most dire need and should not be caught up in the Federation debate taking place at this time,” added Mr Donaghy.
So long as governments, State or Federal impede the ability for the business events industry to operate freely, through lockdowns, border closures and any COVID-19 restrictions, governments must take action to sustain the sector. Lives and livelihoods are at risk right now, which is why this announcement comes as such a blow to those in the business events industry struggling to survive and support their people.