‘Shock waves through the industry’: Peter Jones on the state of Victoria’s event sector

The industry stalwart says the focus is now on preparing for the future post-COVID.

Melbourne has this week entered stage four lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing many businesses to shut up shop and residents to stay home under new curfew measures.

Respected event industry professional Peter Jones says the latest developments have wiped out Victoria’s event calendar for 2020.

Speaking to Spice News on Friday as a record 723 COVID-19 cases were recorded across Victoria, Jones said the number of cases and the resulting lockdown is, while necessary, devastating for the event industry.

Peter Jones

“It’s really sent shock waves this morning,” he said.

“We had one event cancel this morning, it was a gala dinner at Crown for the last Saturday in November.

“They’ve pulled the plug now realising there is no way 1,300 people will be able to gather this year.

“They’ve said, we just can’t do it, we’re not going to take the risk.”

For Jones’ company, Peter Jones Special Events, every event for the remainder of 2020 has now been cancelled.

“There’s not one event that we would do in Melbourne for the rest of the year.”

After spending some time on the phone to other Victorian event professionals and suppliers on Friday morning, Jones said the sentiment is the same throughout much of the industry.

“The phones have been running hot this morning – suppliers, clients, everyone has gone ‘Can you believe those numbers?’ and it’s just pushed [events] back even further,” he said.

“No one is now talking about this year for events,” said Jones.

“I think everyone here is going to say okay what are we going to do in 2021.”

Campaigning for support

Jones said stress levels are extremely high throughout the industry and many companies are worried about whether or not they’ll make it through the other side of the pandemic.

“Companies are just bleeding because there are no events,” he said.

“I know of some companies that will not make it, they will just shut the door.”

A group of Victorian event professionals, including Jones, are working alongside the Victorian Tourism Industry Council to lobby the state government for dedicated support.

“We did a survey and the number one thing that came out from the suppliers was [the need for] rent relief, payroll tax relief, and dare I say it, redundancy relief,” said Jones.

“Every business in the event industry is looking at how to offset its fixed costs at the moment.”

He said other petitions and campaigns have sprung up in recent weeks that have caused confusion among the industry.

“We’re just trying to go through VTIC and VIEC and through Martin Pakula, who’s our minister, to do it properly and methodically as an industry.”

Preparing for a world post-pandemic

While the remainder of 2020 is looking increasingly uncertain for the Victorian events industry, Jones believes the focus must now be on preparing the sector for the future post-COVID-19.

“The most important thing we can do as industry is work out how to become COVID-safe when the events come back,” he said.

“COVID will be an issue for a long time to come, so we need to ensure there is confidence in the industry’s ability to host safe and responsible events.

“If we don’t, then no one will deal with us and we might as well shut up shop now.”

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