We all have memoires of the childhood story of the Little Engine That Could who pushed to get over the mountain and kept saying I think I can, I think I can.
The train was very positive with the intention and eventually the little locomotive huffed and puffed and conquered the mountain and then the down run was far easier.
The question for the exhibition and event industry is when will the downhill roll on begin?
Whilst in the last week I read stories about positivity and agree 100%, we equally need to celebrate the wins and the successes. There is another saying, “one win doesn’t fix a whole problem” keep it real, as we are a long way off reaching the peak of the mountain and enjoying the smooth ride on the other side.
Victoria’s seven day shutdown decision this week underlines how vulnerable our sector is. With the cancellations, many for the second or third time, many may not come back this year, or ever. Meanwhile, event organisers in other states were left scrambling to determine whether they have enough content without Victorian sponsors, stand bookings and visitors.
Without a united national approach to border shut downs the question to ask is, how long can we all hang in for?
The very issue raised over the last 12 months is about when do we stop going backwards and have a vision and plan to move forward? If we keep having these scenarios, which I might add could remain in play until we have all citizens vaccinated, which on current roll out means well into next year. As an industry there can be little to no confidence to keep spending and investing money, time and resources – this is just a reality I want to be positive BUT that doesn’t pay the bills!
Look at the UK. This week, they had around 2,200 cases and five deaths with the Indian variant strong within the community. Yet they have announced the continuance of exhibitions and events, citing they need to live with the virus and manage the situation. We seem to still be a long way behind, yet we keep hearing rhetoric that Australia is in a better position compared to the rest of the world. But are we, or is it just our sector that isn’t?
And whilst the current situation is just devastating to so many businesses generally across Victoria (and my thoughts are with them) we have been promised for the last month that we would have a decision by the state government on whether the facilities at REB and MCEC will be reopened and handed back to the industry by July 1st. The latest situation now delays any decisions and announcements, so again the industry is left without answers. If Victoria wants to have an events industry they need to hand back the facilities so we can help ourselves.
Some weeks ago I raised the issue that it is time for the exhibitions and events sector to push for a dedicated minister just as other sectors such as tourism, small business do.
And the one thing we should be fighting for as the major outtake from the last 16 months is how unaware governments are both state and federally of our sector, our worth and contribution to the economy and how far this reaches and affects many others, like Tourism. We shouldn’t be silent and should seize this opportunity nationally to establish our worth and importance to the economy.
So whilst we can adopt the Henry Ford saying “Whether you think can, or think can’t, you’re right”. Positivity and celebrating success will only get so far, we cannot afford to give up the need for recognition, support, awareness and consistency in approach from State and Federal Governments, unfortunately Thursday’s announcement has just underlined how we are a long way from any normality and resuming a consistent sustainable level of business we can plan for.
To avoid this flowing for the rest of the year, and worse still into next year, a national approach to our industry, and a less trigger happy approach to shut down needs to be adopted.