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Financial Crisis To Dampen Events in 2009: Special Report


By Ian Neubauer

The global financial crisis is expected to impact upon Australia’s events industry next year as businesses become more prudent with their spending, according to industry sources.

A number of event planners, venue managers and service providers interviewed by SpiceNews today (October 14) expressed concern over developments that have decimated global stock markets, but said mass cancellations were not on the horizon.

Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) communications manager, Suzi O’Dell, said the MCEC had not been impacted because of the long lead-time required to plan and stage large events. 

“We have not seen any cancellations as international conventions have such a long lead-time, they are traditionally not impacted by the economic cycle,” she said. “Nor have we seen a slowdown in enquiries.”

But Luna Park Sydney general manager – sales, Gary Daly, said there had been a downturn in enquiries over the last few weeks that he attributed to economic uncertainty.

“The issue is not so much that the crisis effects the events industry per se, but that it spooks the corporate market into doing nothing while they wait and see if gets worse or not,” he said.

“From our perspective we have not had any cancellations. But where someone may have called us and said ‘We are thinking about doing an event in February or March’, they are now not making that call. They are not spending money until they see where this thing goes, and events are just one thing that gets caught up in this transaction.”

A List Guide managing director, Amy Merriman, said she is yet to see a single cancellation linked directly to the crisis but that she anticipates a possible slowdown in the sector next year.

“I think there will definitely be a flow-on effect. But the best event mangers know that big budgets do not always mean big success,” she said. “Some of the best ideas are born out of the more ‘challenging’ briefs and budgets delivered by clients.”

But an industry leader who spoke on the condition of anonymity said blue-chip clients were not considering cutting — or even scaling back — corporate events.

“They understand they have to keep a low profile because the last thing people want to see right now are bankers dancing in the streets,” he said. “But they still have their budgets and if they don’t spend them they know [their budgets] will be cut next year.”  

Luna Park’s Daly scoffed at the argument.

“If you’re suggesting managers spend irresponsibly to protect their positions next year, I am not sure that is a sound argument to make,” he said. “The reason businesspeople continue to spend money on events is because of the benefits it gives their businesses. But it’s prudent to exercise caution.”
 
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