The business events industry is pleading the Victorian Government for urgent financial support and a revised reopening plan to rebuild the state’s event sector.
Meetings & Events Australia (MEA) national chair Kate Smith said despite considerable consultation with government over the past six months, Victoria’s business events industry is still without dedicated funding or support.
“Business events are the highest yielding sector in Victoria’s visitor economy yet here we are in October without a confirmed road map that supports indoor business events commencing as a step towards the state’s recovery,” she said.
It comes as regional Victoria is now in the Third Step to reopening, while metropolitan Melbourne remains in the Second Step with the events industry unable to operate.
Smith has written again to Victoria’s Minister for Tourism & Major Events Martin Pakula urging him to facilitate a “collaborative approach” in designing and implementing an achievable plan to re-instating events within Victoria.
The letter covers the following three main points:
Business events can operate in a controlled environment
“We are not the same as mass gatherings and by the very nature of our events we can operate within controlled environments with technology and data collection available to assist along with our entire supply chain having COVID safety plans ready to implement,” said Smith.
Business events can be introduced in a staged process
“Currently Victoria is around 4 months behind the actual implementation of business events we’ve seen underway in other states. Our colleagues have been able to operate with limitations and with a staged, measured and tested response increasing at moderate levels. Victoria needs a starting point to commence this process with a moderate number of participants operating with a 1 person per 4 sqm limitation with aim to moving safely towards a 1 person per 2 sqm limitation.”
Business events can commence with a roadmap
“The very nature of the events our sector delivers requires time to plan and take them to market. When restrictions lift, our return to delivering events will not be immediate. There will be lag time required to implement the planning, marketing and the end delivery of the event. Advance notice is imperative. If Victoria does not have an effective road map in the immediate weeks for business events, significant levels of business are at risk of being cancelled, moving to virtual or to other states into 2021. This means a loss to the state of businesses, jobs and Victoria’s renowned reputation in the delivery of events.”
View a copy of the full letter here.
Industry bodies join forces
MEA has also joined forces with peak bodies including the Victorian Tourism Industry Council (VTIC), the Accommodation Association of Australia, Tourism Accommodation Australia (Vic) and Restaurant & Catering Australia to propose an alternative roadmap for the restarting of business.
The industry groups said Victoria “could not reach the benchmarks the Andrews Government set in its roadmap and it was time for a new approach”.
Under the proposed plan, business events would be permitted for up to 50 people from 30 October, subject to the one person per four square metre rule, with a goal to increase the cap to 100 people by 1 December.
VTIC CEO Felicia Mariani said it has been incredibly hard to watch the reopening of New South Wales accommodation, business events, attractions and dining when Victoria have “similar daily case numbers to those we are seeing now in Victoria”.
For comparison, Victoria reported five new local COVID-19 cases in the 24-hour reporting period today (22 October), while NSW reported one new local case in the same period.
“NSW had more new cases than Victoria multiple times this week, but they proceeded with plans to double the number of people allowed in outdoor venues and increasedthe number of people allowed at outdoor concerts to 500,” Mariani said in her statement on 16 October.
“It’s time for the Victorian Government to change gear and focus on measures that will ensure safety while businesses operate because extending the shutdown cannot be a permanent solution to COVID-19.”
Event businesses plead for support
Meanwhile, a group of event professionals have launched their own campaign, Save Victorian Events.
As part of the campaign, event supplier Harry the Hirer released a video in which CEO Gab Robinson pleaded with the state government to take action.
“Sadly, time is running out here in Victoria and without the reopening of events or significant support from the government, the industry that puts on the show will soon be out of business,” he said.
“Our industry is rapidly and irrevocably falling apart, with many businesses and events now closed or struggling to survive with little hope of recovering.
“We can’t sit idle, we need to be allowed to go further, with government willingness we believe we can bring our event and exhibition industry and in a safe way. But we need support to do this and, importantly, we need to move now.”
Watch the video below:
State rules, national impact
While Victoria’s lockdown has had a devastating impact on the state’s business events sector, Smith argues the situation also greatly impacts confidence levels across the country.
“With one of our larger states heavily under restrictions and well behind the other states in terms of delivering even virtual events, it ultimately impacts on the confidence in people to invest in events again and delays the steps needed to be able to open up our borders to travel freely to attend events, book flights and accommodation and start to contribute towards our economic recover,” she said.
“Whist state-based events are important, national events are what contribute more significantly to the economy.”