The shock to the Australian events industry of the latest round of sudden state lockdowns, left many of us lost for a response. Over the past two weeks the actions of state leaders, and the prime minister has given us an indication of the existential threat to our jobs and businesses, and of how to protect them.
Matt Pearce CEO of Talk2 Media & Events, Organisers of AIME, said “The concern I have now is that some states may choose to go back to the start [of the pandemic] and ‘unlearn’ everything they had done over the last 16 months. This would have a disastrous impact on business events.”
He believes that a concerted and cooperative response is now required by everyone in events. “We need to continually demonstrate that business events are business drivers and safe to put on. This is a collective responsibility. All the associations – be it BECA, EEAA, MEA etc all have case studies and collateral to demonstrate the importance of our sector and we must work alongside them to ensure we don’t go backwards.”
Karen Bollinger APAC Managing Director of PCMA, an international membership organisation for event professionals, lays bare the stark choices now faced by many events operators. “While we didn’t expect the lockdowns to occur at the pace they did and to some degree the length we’d be in lockdown, this round of lockdowns has dented confidence in Australians travelling whether it’s for business or leisure. For suppliers it is yet another blow, with many SME’s stating that they can’t continue business in this fashion. We have also seen many experienced employees leave the industry leaving a void in our workforce.”
The response to Event Organisers from Meetings & Events Australia (MEA) highlights the lack of recognition of the events sector. “To date, no federal or state government has offered a stimulus package to underwrite the sector.” MEA is currently working with other associations and is in conversation with local and state governments.”
“We want all levels of government to understand that the need for long-term support for our sector’s recovery is both immediate and paramount.” Says the statement.
Claudia Sagripanti Chief Executive of Exhibition & Event Association of Australasia (EEAA) compares this latest round of lockdowns to last year’s. “The difference is that this time around, the industry does not have a buffer and it’s hurting.
EEAA has identified two critical areas to raise with governments. “We have been advocating for targeted support for the sector as well as a clear policy and timetable for vaccinations to enable re-opening at state and federal levels.” Says Claudia “We have also collaborated with other industry associations on critical issues such as insurance schemes to further support the industry and to return confidence.”
With State governments fixated on lockdowns for a zero COVID strategy, the events industry will need to coordinate and work hard if it is to get recognition of the plight of its people, all unable to work and operate, and of the consequences for Australia if this industry collapses.