Originally published 28 July 2020: The first major exhibition to be held under Queensland’s strict COVID-safe regulations has been hailed a success, with organisers saying it has restored faith and enthusiasm back into the events industry.
Annual caravan and camping consumer event, the Gold Coast Expo took place over the weekend at the Gold Coast Turf Club, where more than 10,000 people were expected to attend over three days.
Organiser Bob Carroll from Australian Events said the event was permitted to go ahead after “two months of badgering Queensland Health” to develop a COVID-safe plan for the event industry.
“We have worked hard to develop new systems and processes to meet the COVID challenge and at the same time create a safe environment for exhibitors as well as the public,” he said.
One of the major changes to the event was to ensure all tickets were pre-sold online – a move that was embraced by organisers and attendees.
“As far as we are aware this has never been done with any consumer expo in Australia, so a lot of organisers were looking to see how it would be received,” said Carroll.
“There was no cash or credit card payments at the gate, it was all pre-paid. The public have understood and have got on board.”
While attendance numbers were lower than expected, partly due to heavy rain, Carroll said the move to pre-ticketing delivered more serious buyers, rather than “larger numbers of tyre kickers”.
Event under close scrutiny
As the first event to resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gold Coast Expo was under close scrutiny from Queensland Health and Queensland Police.
“We had a team of senior health inspectors crawl over the event on Saturday and on Sunday the COVID Unit from Queensland Police also paid a visit,” said Carroll.
“All were very impressed with our systems, our layout and the way we set up the event and ran it on the ground.
“They liked our ‘Social Distancing Ambassador’ idea which was part of our strategy to keep people moving and avoid queuing and clumping of people on site.”
Other COVID-safe measures included hand sanitisation stations, signage and regular announcements to remind patrons to keep a 1.5 metre distance and encouraging attendees to download the COVIDSafe app.
A successful test run for events
Following the success of the Gold Coast Expo, Australian Events will deliver another major event in Toowoomba next weekend and a further eight events before November.
Carroll said the expo served as a test case for these upcoming events and many other events across Queensland and Australia.
“The public want events back,” he said.
“They are keen to support and attend exhibitions and the exhibitors are glad to be back in the grid clinching deals.”
Carroll said better communication between event organisers and authorities is needed to get the industry back up and running.
“The government have not done enough to help exhibition and event organisers so it is up to us to get it moving,” he said.
“I am looking to put together a gathering of organisers, venues, suppliers and contractors in the coming weeks in Queensland to share information and to inspire organisers to get back out there and start setting dates.”
‘Wake up and talk to us’: QLD event professional pleads for government support
NSW’s 150-person limit doesn’t apply to business events, new restrictions clarified
Restrictions are easing but the WA event industry is still at risk of collapse