The necessity of shutting down gatherings of people to control the spread of the coronavirus has meant the business events sector is also shut down. Like other sectors that are reliant on people coming together, business events companies have been hit hard and fast by the rapid escalation of the virus around the globe.
Business events are the highest yielding component of the visitor economy. Switching it off takes $2.5 billion from the economy every month. To give context, this is equivalent to the value of the entire cruise industry every two months.
The business events sector brings in more than $30 billion to the Australian economy, employs more than 193,000 and runs over 430,000 events every year. The sector is a major contributor to the nation, not only financially, but for its powerful enabling ability. Across many disciplines and sectors, business events act as knowledge translators, a bridge between research and ideas and to deliver real world practical business outcomes.
Even before Australian Governments took decisions to limit gatherings of people, many companies had begun cancelling travel and postponing face-to-face events. The business events sector had seen a massive reduction in revenue across the entirety of quarter one 2020 and as of this week, revenue is zero.
Chair of the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA), Dr Vanessa Findlay, said:
“The business events sector is reliant on the tourism supply chain including venues, accommodation, transport, event organiser, exhibition, catering, audio visual, decorator, and entertainment businesses and more – most of which are small and medium enterprises.
“We know that these businesses are at immediate risk of closing their doors, some already have, and most have had to let go casual staff and are processing redundancies for the majority of their full and part time staff now. It is dire situation for the sector, for the nation, for the world.
“Our immediate focus is on working with the governments of Australia to ensure we can retain as many businesses and jobs as possible including through a package of wages support, loan repayment relief, low or no interest loans and tax deferrals. BECA and its member organisations have conducted an industry-wide survey, the results of which will be collated by mid next week. We will use this information to ensure the support the sector receives from government is targeted at the areas most in need and to shore up the productive capacity we will need when we move to the recovery phase. We must make sure that we retain the sectors core capability and capacity. Without that, recovery of the economy will be compromised.”
The business events sector places the health and safety of its clients, customers and all staff across the entire supply chain at the centre of its response to this very significant challenge. We support the work of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and the National Cabinet in their efforts to protect Australia and ensure the fastest and most effective recovery possible.
BECA is working closely with Government, including through Minister Simon Birmingham and his office, and the Treasury Coronavirus Business Liaison Unit to design and implement a support package. Last week there were two formal industry meetings with Government and a number of informal discussions to get things moving as quickly as possible.
Minister Birmingham and his staff and Gordon de Brouwer and the staff of the Coronavirus Business Liaison Unit have been incredibly engaging in their efforts to collect information and understand the impacts on business so support packages can most effectively minimise the profound worry across the sector.
The BECA Board meets again this Monday, 23 March to take the next steps on the development of the Business Events Sector Sustainment Plan. This plan will form the basis of the sectors management and response to the coronavirus – covering the immediate needs of industry through to recovery. There is no greater focus for BECA and its member associations right now than ensuring the survival of our sector.The Australian Government has marked the business events industry as a key mechanism to attract global talent to Australia.