As JobKeeper ended on 28 March, the latest insights published by the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB) highlight the difficult situation that the business events industry finds itself without the support of Government.
While state, territory and local government-backed convention bureaux continue to strategically bid for and win new business events for their respective destinations over the medium to long term, the immediate future is not clear.
The Snapshot Reports produced by the AACB from October 2020 have highlighted the successful postponement strategies undertaken by convention bureaux, with 70% of international and 64% of domestic business events on the forward calendar postponed. However, ongoing uncertainty challenges a 2021 recovery with almost half of all postponed domestic business events at risk, not yet committing to a future date, and international business events unlikely.
Since the impacts of the pandemic hit Australia, AACB members have endured 241 international and 182 domestic business event cancellations due to COVID-19. These cancellations from just the first six months of the pandemic represent lost revenue for the legitimate professional tourism and events businesses that would have delivered them.
The reports also emphasise the long lead time that the business events industry operates in, with domestic business events taking several months to book, plan, market and deliver, while international business events can take several years.
AACB President, Michael Matthews said:
“The business events industry has been left unsupported by the conclusion of JobKeeper over the weekend. With only $4.5 million reimbursed to business through the Government’s $50 million Business Events Grant Program at this time, it is not enough to sustain the critical sector that would otherwise boost the Australian economy by $36 billion.
“All key associations forming the peak industry body, the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA), have repeatedly advised Government of the program’s flawed design since its announcement, outlining the disconnect between where the grants are being distributed and where the primary COVID-19 risk is being assessed and realised. However, these calls have been ignored.
A recent BECA survey revealed that almost half of business events businesses will need to let more staff go and one-in-four will close without significant ongoing Government support like JobKeeper.
Matthews added, “To boost confidence, we need Government to overhaul the Business Events Grant Program so that it supports event owners to deliver their business events against a backdrop of uncertainty, reduce cancellations, and inject much needed cashflow through the supply chain.
“In addition, we call on the Government to deliver additional targeted support measures for tourism and events businesses that still need help in the absence of JobKeeper. This is to stem the loss of key skills and experience to other industries and prevent the unnecessary closure of small and family businesses that we will rely on to help deliver successful business events in recovery.”