‘On its knees’, event sector collapse wipes $35bn from the economy

The Australian economy is set to lose $35.7 billion in direct expenditure over the next 12 months, as nearly all business events scheduled for 2020 are cancelled or postponed due to Covid-19, according to new figures from the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA).

Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak the business events industry was growing at around 6 per cent annually since 2014. In FY19 it directly generated over $35 billion in economic activity and employed over 229,000 people across a range of sectors and trades.

However, the industry now faces an almost total loss of revenue due to the escalating effects of the coronavirus, on top of the bushfires earlier this year.

Nearly all business events (96 per cent) are now cancelled or postponed in 2020, with over 92,000 industry job losses expected between before the end of the financial year.

The data projects that a further $17.2 billion in direct value to the economy will be wiped out – on top of the loss of direct expenditure – as a result of the global pandemic which has rapidly, and indefinitely, closed down events in Australia.

Of those staff already laid off between the end of 2019 to March 2020, four in five (78 per cent) were casual or freelance workers, while one in five (22 per cent) were employed on a permanent basis.

Three in five businesses working in the industry (59 per cent) believe it will take them a year or longer to recover once Covid-19 is no longer impacting health, revealing the extent to which the highest yielding component of Australia’s visitor economy has been decimated by the pandemic.

In response to the crisis, BECA has announced it is working with the government to urgently implement a coordinated industry strategy.

Business Events Council of Australia chair Dr. Vanessa Findlay said the industry has been brought “to its knees”.

“It is not just experiencing hibernation today but complete loss of revenue,” she said. “The industry was first to feel the impacts when gatherings were banned following the pandemic outbreak, and it is looking increasingly likely that gatherings will be last activity that is reinstated.

“This is why, on behalf of the industry, BECA has moved quickly to develop the coordinated COVID-19 Business Events Response and Recovery Framework and is working closely with government on its implementation. Supported by a well-developed policy aligned to Australia’s competitive strengths, the business events industry will play a critical role in the recovery and rebound of Australia’s broader economy from this pandemic.”

Currently being finalised, the COVID-19 Business Events Response & Recovery Framework comprises of two key phases: Response, and Recovery.

Response key points:

  • Identifies the viability of industry businesses and organisations at immediate risk with no cash-flow or forward pipelines of business events
  • Aims to enable the industry to be sustained during the pandemic and to build domestic demand, industry capability and strategy for the future market
  • Success is focused on reduced costs on the industry businesses, targeted support to organisations and employees to support viability, training and skills, domestic event pipeline development and Australian governments, businesses and associations incentivised to plan and book events

Recovery key points:

  • Australian Government Bid Fund Program renewal and extension
  • International research, marketing and promotion
  • Creation of new Trade and Investment Priority Business Events that tap into Australia’s competitive advantages in key growth industries and regional areas
  • Visa simplification
  • Export Market Development Grant extension and refinement of criteria
  • Improved Business Events metrics that enhance the national and international visitor surveys for business events and complement by investing in robust aggregated and segmented data capability