The return of business events in Victoria has been dealt another setback with harder lockdowns imposed this week as a second wave of Covid-19 cases surges over the Australian state.
With growing concern about community transmissions, the Victoria state government has declared a state of disaster and imposed Stage 4 restrictions, believed to be one of the strictest in the world for the next six weeks.
“We really feel for our colleagues in Victoria and obviously this situation has delayed the restart of events in Victoria,” said Claudia Sagripanti, chief executive of the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia.
“Clearly the Victorian Government is taking all steps necessary to contain the spread of the virus, and we will work with them to get the industry operating again as soon as possible. At this stage, given the containment efforts, we are confident that the industry has the capacity to return from October or November 2020 onwards,” Sagripanti told TTGmice.
However, a different situation is seen in other Australian states, where event houses have started to see green shoots of recovery. A small number of exhibitions and events have begun returning since July. This includes the successfully staged Gold Coast Expo which saw almost 9,000 visitors over three days in what was Australia’s first exhibition since the pandemic began.
Rob Weeden, general manager of Pan Pacific Perth, confirmed Perth was also seeing an uptick in bookings for day meetings and social events.
“That’s everything from university faculties to school formals to even weddings, and that’s a precursor to business (events) because once there’s confidence, (it will flow on to meetings),” Weeden said.
Village Roadshow Theme Parks in Queensland’s Gold Coast has similarly seen corporate bookings return. “Interest is spiking for 2021,” said Caroline Duveau-Clayton, head of conferences and events.
“We are working in line with a government-approved Covid-safe plan that includes maintaining social distancing, which has reduced the capacities of all our venues. However, across our 64 indoor and outdoor venues we are in an enviable position to still cater for multiple large events,” she added.
“We have also been very creative in looking at other ways to use our unique venues, for example introducing daytime conferences at Australian Outback Spectacular, and offering customers the possibility to postpone their event or relocate between venues depending on the restrictions applicable at the time of their event, giving everyone peace of mind that their event can still go ahead safely,” said Duveau-Clayton.
Meanwhile, The National Wine Centre in Adelaide has hosted seven events last week, representing about 20 or 30 percent of usual business compared to pre-Covid-19.
But the venue’s general manager Jason Bird suggested state and territory governments will now delay plans to lift restrictions further to the next stage as Victoria attempts to control the spike in Covid-19 cases.
“It would have to be said, that with the current national circumstances, all (state and territory) governments within Australia are rightfully hedging their bets a little. So I don’t think we’ll see any next round of restrictions lifted in (the immediate future),” he opined.
Both Bird and Weeden said all interstate borders need to reopen for their states to see much-needed improved traffic for events.
“If (your venue is) blessed with large space, you will probably be doing better than others. But the cry is, open the borders so that we can get business from the east coast. And until that happens, we might not see recovery in Western Australia,” Weeden concluded.