In a move that has left many in the event industry questioning a double standard, Gary Fitz-Roy asks why the Federal Government has extended special funding for Qantas to the tune of $100 million while the event sector has been left holding losses from events cancelled due to border closures and staff resources continuing to exit the sector.
Qantas’ annual turnover pre covid was around $10.6 billion and they employed 26,000 people.
According to the stats they had 40.48 million passengers in 2019/20
In contrast the event sector pre covid was turning over $35.7 billion and employed 236,000 people.
The event sector connected 43.7 million people.
On every level the event sector has delivered more, and impacts more people and businesses.
This is just one of many special subsidies Qantas has received whilst the event sector continues to go unassisted and unsupported. The irony is the event sector is made up a many Australian family businesses who have so much personally invested, and to loose.
With the announcement that the Ekka was cancelled as it was set to open mirrors the cancellation of the Byron Bay Blues Festival. Meanwhile there are many in the event industry who have lost money due to lockdowns.
The decision to support one organisation whilst a whole sector is being destroyed beggars belief.
If state and federal governments actually want an event industry to exist we need recognition of the following three main things.
#1 COVID cancellation insurance – business owners cannot insure against an event being cancelled or postponed on the orders of government (eg Bluesfest). So governments must be prepared to provide that insurance. Events have large pre-event expenses and when a lock down occurs often hundreds of thousands has already been spent. Then we spend more to undo, and if the event is rescheduled, we spend hundreds of thousands again to relaunch and promote the event. This not sustainable!
#2 Financial support for businesses that cannot reopen immediately lockdowns are lifted. Usually because of lead times or venue restrictions (eg 4 sqm). The current support packages will end when lockdowns are lifted (not when events kick in again). JobKeeper was a good model because it compared turnover to a comparable period when trading was normal. It should be noted the double standard, most major centres are owned by Government and a lot of the staff wages are covered by the Government whilst the users and the suppliers are all independent Australian Businesses all impacted with their OWN MONEY. Qantas are receiving special support with the guidelines being blurred to support them, so why not the event sector?
#3 More decisive lockdowns – We have heard and seen politicians state openly that lockdowns and border closures are something they want to now avoid.
Yet in the last month most states have imposed some action that impacts the whole industry as we are not a state based industry, we work across state borders.
Now the narrative is around vaccine percentages and they too have changed from 80% to now 70% and NSW saying if they can get 60% of the state vaccinated there will be less restrictions. It seems the conditions around keeping the sector open changes daily.
Uncertainty is the biggest issue confronting the restart of events. Events are not being cancelled or postponed for the duration of the announced lockdown but for weeks and months following.
The lead time to mount or remount an event contributes to the cost, the delay and the uncertainty.
Overlay this now with what will be the single biggest impact – the PEOPLE. Whilst a lot grapple with the mental aspects, of equal concern is the large number who have now left the industry to pursue more stable income like in the building industry, so even if the industry can restart can government explain how we actually deliver events without staff?
As a business event owner I am left wondering what I have to do to be treated with the same conditions and considerations Qantas enjoy. On current tracking every capital city are going to have some of the most expensive warehouses on prime land sitting there vacant for many years in the future.