Australia MICE comes to a screeching halt

Australia closes its borders to all non-citizens; travellers at Sydney Airport pictured

Australia’s business events sector is reeling with billions of dollars in losses and revenue now down to zero, as the country employs drastic measures in a bid to control the spread of Covid-19.

Australia’s borders were closed from 21.00 last Friday, banning non-residents and non-citizens from entering the country. Some states like Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia have since gone further to announce border closures to interstate visitors.

Australia closes its borders to all non-citizens; travellers at Sydney Airport pictured

Then on Sunday, it was announced that indoor sporting and entertainment venues would close from midday today (Monday), following a ban introduced last week on gatherings larger than 100 people, which now effectively halts the paltry number of remaining small meetings at event centres.

Just hours before Sunday’s government announcement, the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) reported a A$2.5 billion (US$1.4 billion) monthly loss to the Australian economy because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Even before Australian Governments took decisions to limit gatherings of people, many companies had begun cancelling travel and postponing face-to-face events,” said the statement issued by BECA. “The business events sector had seen a massive reduction in revenue across the entirety of 1Q2020 and as of this week, revenue is zero.”

Prior to the latest lockdown measures, some convention centres like ICC Sydney were working around meeting limits. In ICC Sydney’s case, audiovisual services were offered to clients who could still meet in capacities of a maximum of 100 per room. They included live or recorded web streaming, remote presentations, video conferencing and use of a broadcast studio.

Meanwhile, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, and Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, are closed to the public until mid-April. Now, other convention centres are joining them in what seems to be an uncertain future with the government warning that limits could remain in place for six months.

Chair of BECA, Vanessa Findlay, warned that many in the tourism supply chain will suffer, with businesses “at immediate risk of closing their doors, some already have, and most have had to let go casual staff and are processing redundancies for the majority of their full and part-time staff now”.

“It is a dire situation for the sector, for the nation, for the world,” she said.

BECA states it is working with the government to make wage support packages, loan repayment relief, low or no-interest loans and tax deferrals available to support the sector.

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