The Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) has expressed its concern and disappointment regarding the Federal Treasurer’s announcement last week to withdraw COVID-19 Disaster Payments in line with vaccination targets being reached.
BECA argues that the decision does not consider the nature of the business events industry and the restrictions it is still facing, even after lockdowns end.
Battling with significant challenges over the past 18 months, the industry has dealt with cancellations and postponements due to lockdowns, strict restrictions and capacities, limited to no revenue streams, a skills exodus as businesses struggle to survive, and constant uncertainty.
National conferences and exhibitions cannot be delivered in a matter of two weeks, once an individual state or territory reaches 80 per cent full vaccination, especially while domestic borders remain closed. With restricted movement and travel within Australia, the commercial viability of many in-person business events remains at risk even if the host destination allows the event to take place. Even when vaccination targets are reached, businesses within the sector will not be able to resume operation at any great scale.
While BECA is supportive of the Government’s National Plan and vaccination overall, BECA deputy chair Geoff Donaghy said that it cannot be confused with the ability for the business events industry to trade.
“When restrictions lift, business events cannot simply switch on like other industries,” Donaghy said.
“Significant lead time is required to book, plan, and deliver business events, which is why targeted and sustained support for our sector is required into 2022.
“It will take six to 12 months at least for business events to fully gear up, confirm program content, source sponsors and exhibitors, and market the event to attract delegate registrations.”
Furthermore, while the COVID-19 Disaster Payments have supported the workforce during the recent lockdowns, the business events industry is still experiencing a loss of specialist skills to other more stable sectors. BECA says the Treasure’s announcement to end payments threatens to have even more skilled professionals leave the industry and make recovery even more challenging.
“Our once successful business events industry that contributed $36 billion to the economy and supported 230,000 jobs pre-pandemic needs the support of Government in this time of most dire need and should not be caught up in the Federation debate taking place at this time,” Donaghy said.
“So long as governments, State or Federal impede the ability for the business events industry to operate freely, through lockdowns, border closures and any COVID-19 restrictions, governments must take action to sustain the sector.
“Lives and livelihoods are at risk right now, which is why this announcement comes as such a blow to those in the business events industry struggling to survive and support their people.”