Australia and New Zealand call for early restart of MICE sector

Both the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia (EEAA) and the Conventions & Incentives New Zealand (CINZ) are urging their respective governments to give a clear timeline for the resumption of business events, and to expedite the restart of the business events sector.

They cite the positive economic impact of the sector, its potential contribution toward business recovery, and the substantial lead-time needed to successfully organise such events as some of the reasons.

The associations indicate that crowds at tradeshows can be better controlled

In separate press statements, both associations asked governments at central and state levels to make a distinction between business-to-business events and other mass gatherings – such as sporting events – highlighting that the former can operate under stringent health and safety controls.

Claudia Sagripanti, CEO, EEAA said in a statement that organisers are able to, for instance, trace the movement of each visitor, delegate, exhibitor and speaker, as well as implement and monitor the effectiveness of health and safe distancing measures that comply with authorities’ stipulations.

To provide policymakers with the confidence to restart events, the EEAA said it is coming up with health and safety guidelines for business events, in conjunction with other major Australian industry associations – such as the Business Council of Australia (BECA) and Venue Management Association.

Similarly over in New Zealand, CINZ has collaborated with Event Venues Association of New Zealand (EVANZ) to develop a set of guidelines to ensure the health and safety of stakeholders at business events, said Lisa Hopkins, chief executive, CINZ. These guidelines are set to be distributed after undergoing review by the Ministry of Health, New Zealand.

Hopkins expressed confidence that the sector can safely manage indoor business events of up to 500 (pax). While the New Zealand Cabinet will meet today (May 11) to discuss whether to ease restrictions and move to Covid-19 Alert Level 2, moving one tier down on the alert system will only allow for gatherings of up to 100 participants, well below the 500 put forth by Hopkins.

The CINZ, however, is looking for restrictions to be lifted for business events even at Alert Level 2.

Over in Australia, the EEAA and BECA did not give a specific number of attendees they hoped the central government would allow as anti-Covid-19 measures are eased.

Nevertheless, business events would undoubtedly require greater lifting of restrictions then the three-step plan outlined by the Australian Cabinet on May 8, which plans to ease restrictions in three phases. Even when step three is implemented, gatherings of just up to 100 people will be allowed.

To further their appeal, the EEAA sought to remind the government of the potential economic benefits that would arise with the reopening of the sector.

According to Sagripanti, the business events sector contributed more than A$35 billion (US$22.8 billion) to the Australian economy in 2019, and employed over 229,000 workers last year. She also suggested an August restart date, as the “last quarter of 2020 is vital to recovery.”

“All we ask is (for policymakers) not to confuse a business event with a mass gathering. One is structured, controlled and managed, the other can be the complete opposite,” said Hopkins.

“We want the government to understand that we take the health and safety of attendees and staff very seriously, and after all the great work which has been done by New Zealanders, we don’t want to move backwards,” she added.

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