Exclusive: Melbourne event sector ‘crying out’ for support

As restrictions begin to ease, MEA chair Kate Smith is hoping the government will turn its attention to "the many requests from the event sector".

The chair of Meetings & Events Australia (MEA) said Victoria’s event industry is “crying out” for support and a staged roadmap to restart events.

Following the easing of restrictions across Melbourne announced on Monday, Kate Smith said while the news is fully welcomed by MEA, the industry is now waiting on some indication of when events can resume.

“What came [on Monday] is really important for the wellbeing of Victorians, it’s really important we don’t diminish that,” she told Spice News.

“It will help our colleagues in tourism and hospitality, which is fantastic, they need support as well.

MEA chair Kate Smith

“But the event sector is crying out for it. We need, very quickly, to have an understanding of what the next steps are for us.”

The event sector is yet to receive direct financial support or a staged roadmap from the Victorian Government, however it’s not for lack of trying.

MEA and many other industry leaders have attempted to engage with the state government over the past six months.

Last week, Smith wrote again to Minister for Tourism & Major Events Martin Pakula urging him to implement an achievable plan to re-instating events, while MEA has also joined forces with tourism and hospitality bodies to campaign for support.

“We are wanting to work in collaboration with the government and I think we’ve demonstrated that,” said Smith.

“We’re looking to find the right roadmap and solution that can bring businesses and the industry back to life but also that gives the surety of safety and responsibility in that process. We’re keen to see some discussion and engagement happen.”

‘We need to play catch up’

In the MEA’s many attempts to speak with the Victorian Government, the peak body has been campaigning for a “staged approach” to reinstate events.

Earlier this month is proposed a roadmap that would see events for up to 50 people from 30 October, with a goal to increase the cap to 100 people by 1 December.

“We want a starting point and from there an understanding of how quickly, all being well, we can move through that,” said Smith.

“Because of the lag time for business events, it’s crucial that clients looking at the first half of 2021 have an understanding of what the likelihood is of their meeting being able to happen in Melbourne.

“We need to play catch up with the other states now and we’re keen to see how quickly we can move through that staged approach responsibility and safely.”

The reopening of borders is another issue that MEA wants addressed, while direct financial support for event industry businesses is also a priority.

At the time of our interview, Smith had received acknowledgement of MEA’s letter to Minister Pakula, but was yet to have a direct conversation with him.

“We’re hoping perhaps now the restrictions are lifting and the pressure is off that, hopefully the minister may now turn his attention to the many requests from the event sector to him,” said Smith.

“And we’d really welcome that chance.”

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