55% of respondents to the NZ Event Associations latest survey stated that the recent COVID-19 response has had a considerable financial impact on their organisation, whilst a further 23% stated that it had a moderate financial impact. The organisations that were willing to share their financial impact reported losses of up to $2 million dollars each with an average loss of $167 thousand per organisation, and total losses of $17.5 million.
This represents just a small portion of the industry and considering the significant size of the event sector, the total financial impact will undoubtedly be many orders of magnitude higher. Whilst this reflects a big hit to the sector, should higher alert levels remain then the impact will only worsen as we move into spring and summer, traditionally the busiest time for events.
Due to the time of year, mainly business events, conferences, exhibitions and trade shows have been affected – many representing millions in lost commerce for other industries as well as the direct effects on the events sector and its supply chain including The Baby Show, Spring Gift & Homewares Fair, Auckland Boat Show and iconic leisure events like WOW, AIMS Games, Land Rover Horse of Year, sixteen performances of Mary Poppins, and the Auckland Marathon. In addition, events such as New Zealand Fashion Week, Motorhome Show, Home Shows, Armageddon Expo (just to name a few) have been put on hold until further alert levels are announced.
The Events Sector is likely experiencing the greatest consequences from the COVID-19 response of any industry, many events can realistically only take place at level 1 and the uncertainty is causing event professionals to leave the sector, ultimately the viability of the industry is now significantly jeopardised.
Long-term, the sector is already facing a skills shortage with many event professionals having already left the industry due to COVID-19 impacts. More are likely to follow. This shortage is the result of redundancies, the lack of access to international talent, and general uncertainly about the industry’s future. This is particularly concerning with recruitment and planning underway for significant major events such as the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022, Rugby World Cup 2021 and the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, all of which have received Government investment.
The events industry continues to be heavily impacted by lockdowns and many operators are particularly concerned considering the latest statement from Dr Bloomfield stating that more than 90 per cent of people would need to be vaccinated before officials could be confident of moving to Level 1.
The NZ Events Association is urgently requesting government support:
Targeted and extended financial support as currently “not fit for purpose”:
Event professionals are effectively faced with zero revenue from the very beginning of an outbreak, until the very end – at best. The reality is that the ongoing uncertainly, coupled with event planning lead-times, results in impacts well beyond the end of an outbreak. A targeted fund is proposed for event businesses and its supply chain proportionate to the decline in revenue due to COVID-19-cancelled events when compared to pre-COVID-19 turnover.
A risk-based approach to events at Alert Level 2:
This recognises that not all events present the same level of risk. As signalled since mid-2020, events can take place safely under a prescribed COVID-19 management framework at Alert Level 2 with industry-led guidelines for risk minimisation. A pertinent comparison is shopping malls permitted to trade at Alert Level 2, yet they have far fewer controls around crowd movement, record keeping, infection prevention, etc, than an event such as a tradeshow or exhibition can achieve. Events are ticketed so contact tracing is not an issue.
A Government-backed insurance scheme for events:
Given the risks of future Alert Level changes preventing the delivery of events and with plenty of buy-in from the Events Sector, the Government has been asked to underwrite events for $50 million providing a safety net for events professionals from COVID-19-related impacts. This in return would ensure events a key driver of economic and regional development as well as a significant contributor to tourism at all levels (With one third of domestic tourism driven by people attending events). This is on top of the much-needed social well-being for all New Zealanders with events helping to improve social cohesion, community spirit and pride.
Adding ‘tools to the event toolbox’:
Such as rapid COVID-19 testing (i.e. Rapid Antigen Testing) at events to work alongside the country’s increasing vaccination rates on top of the now mandatory record keeping for indoor events.
Improved MIQ systems:
More spots in MIQ with a consistent, fair and speedy system which would enable the critical long-term planning events professionals need to secure international talent and participants.
“Without clear and concrete measures in place ahead of the peak events season, de Fontenay says, the Government runs the risk of losing its capability, expertise and its supply chain which have been instrumental in driving investment, economic and social benefits, domestic tourism (and international tourism when our borders open again) and delivering on a world class event industry that Kiwis more than ever need within this period of COVID-19 Delta variant induced austerity”.