The Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) has appeared before the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 to reinforce the case for ongoing support for Australia’s $35.7 billion business events industry and the 229,000 people it employs.
Represented by BECA Chair Dr Vanessa Findlay and Association of Australian Convention Bureaux CEO Andrew Hiebl, BECA called for targeted government support that will build confidence and create momentum for people to get back to in-person business events.
Dr Findlay highlighted to the Committee that the sector had faced close to zero revenue for six months.
“While it might be reasonable to expect a business to look after itself for that period of time anything beyond that is now very serious danger territory for every business in our industry,” she said.
Dr Findlay concluded her evidence to the Committee by outlining a program that is under development “for business events industry businesses to provide a level of support that they need about making decisions around sustainability and viability into the future”.
“We are continuing to work with Government in line with the recovery and rebound framework for the business events industry to drive industry specific support packages that will regain business confidence and drive momentum to see the return of business events,” she said
Border restrictions continue to impose the most significant challenge impeding the recovery of the business events industry. To overcome this, BECA’s COVIDSafe Guidelines differentiate business events from mass gatherings and introduces measures that enable business events to occur in COVID safe environments, providing confidence for the States and Territories to lift restrictions to enable the restart of business events.
BECA is also working with Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham, the Treasury Coronavirus Business Liaison Unit, the National COVID-19 Commission and the insurance industry to resolve the insurance issues that are undermining confidence in planning events.
“We haven’t been able to gain clarity from the insurance industry that an event that is cancelled as a result of a pandemic is actually covered,” said Findlay.
“And, of course, that severely undermines the confidence of people to book an event and know that, if it’s cancelled as a result of government restrictions, they can cover costs.”
Hiebl said the uncertainty around restrictions and border closures were major challenges to the sector.
“While enquiry levels remain relatively high, risk of future lockdowns and restrictions imposed on business events by states and territories hit confidence and make it extremely difficult for organisers to sign supplier agreements and pay deposits,” he said at the hearing.
“In addition, our industry has invested time and effort to develop COVID safe plans, but in many jurisdictions, are not able to enact them.”