March 28 has now passed and so too has JobKeeper, the vital support mechanism that supported the Business Events Industry over the months that saw its revenue streams decimated by between 75-100%.
What has not passed is the uncertainty, severe limitations and restrictions that are compromising our industry’s survival and pathway to recovery. The business conditions that saw the JobKeeper scheme being introduced have not altered for our sector, and in some cases, they have worsened for 2021. The industry still faces critical challenges over the next 6-9 months whilst the market regains confidence to plan, deliver, book, and pay to attend events across the country.
Investment in ongoing targeted support is needed as an urgent priority to ensure we can sustain our sector and retain our event professionals into the future.
For the industry to return to its proven position as a major economic driver for the Australian economy, contributing $36 billion and 230,000 jobs in FY19, short term targeted support is critical to retaining core capacity and capability.
The Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) conducted an initial survey of the vital supply chain of organisations and event professionals that create, promote, and deliver business events throughout Australia in June 2020 and again in February 2021. The purpose was to assess the business operating environment, the impact of government support mechanisms and to measure the level of business confidence and future business expectations.
The Government Support and Future Confidence Report’s key findings for 2021 clearly demonstrate the need for ongoing support:
- While 87% of business events businesses accessed the initial JobKeeper program to September 2020, reliance on the wage subsidy continued with 85% of businesses still accessing the program for the January to March 2021 period.
- With the cessation of JobKeeper without further government support, 47% of businesses will make more staff redundant, and 23% of businesses will close.
- 61% of business events businesses saw a 75-100% reduction in turnover for 2020 compared to 2019, while 44% forecast the same result for the 6-months to June 2021.
- The business events industry has also seen a shift in confidence with 50% now believing they will return to pre-crisis levels in ‘3-5 years’ – a significant 10% shift from the ‘1-2 year’ response in July 2020.
The Government has stated with the cessation of JobKeeper, other support that is proportionate, timely, scalable, and targeted to drive demand will be introduced for those industry sectors still facing economic challenges.
However, the poor design of the $50 million Business Events Grant Program has left the industry with virtually no targeted Government support post JobKeeper. The program established is misaligned and has not delivered support to the industry in the scale or time frame that is critically needed. After more than six months, only $8m of the $50m has been ear marked for distribution to grant recipients. In such a challenging environment to see only 16% of the funds used is an incredibly strong indictor of just how poor this program is.
Dr Vanessa Findlay, Chair of BECA, commented:
“The bottom line is that without additional government support to get business event businesses through the next 6 months, 23% of businesses will be closing their doors and a further 32% are questioning if they have the means to survive. 47% of the businesses that think they will survive will be letting more staff go.
“The Business Events Grant Program is simply not sufficient nor effective enough to bring the support desperately needed. We will not only see more job losses and business failures in the short term but also long-term ramifications for the economic potential of the industry. We will lose market share to other countries that may never return.
“Indicators for a return to in-person business events in the next 6 months are looking good but we need to survive now to make it there. To do that we need additional targeted Government support. BECA will continue its engagement with Government towards achieving these critical outcomes.”