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The Australian business events industry continues to face severe limitations and restrictions, with uncertainty over internal state borders compromising recovery, according to the latest statement from the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA).

BECA points out the industry has invested heavily in preparing its businesses to deliver Covid Safe events in terms of protocols, training and infrastructure. However, state premiers have yet to agree on a common management policy relating to free movement within Australia.

BECA calls for state governments to put an end to the uncertainty surrounding state borders to facilitate national business events; Sydney pictured

Other challenges the business events industry is facing now include conflicting guidelines for event approvals across the states and the financial implication to businesses with the impending conclusion of JobKeeper.

Border restrictions are impacting the confidence of event organisers, as well as the ability for event participants to make commitments, something that has led to event cancellations for 1H2021, such as the annual Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event.

Event organisers managing the financial risk of such events are reliant on national participation, BECA pointed out, adding that the perceived risk to fly interstate to attend a conference, exhibition or meeting is too high if there is a border closure or enforced quarantine.

BECA warned that the Australian business events industry will not recover if it is limited to conducting state-based events.

“We need to be able to leverage off the size and scope of national event participation and the contribution it makes to the visitor economy. With the current limitations on international inbound business, our industry is even more reliant on this national market to recover in 2021,” the statement noted.

BECA is calling on state and federal leaders to create confidence in business once again and commit to an evidence-based approach to managing internal borders, an approach it says is critical to enable survival and then recovery of the business events industry.

Many businesses in the Australian business events industry are now looking at 12-18 months of little or no revenue, but the JobKeeper support scheme, which enabled companies to survive throughout 2020, is set to conclude in March 2021.

BECA says the business conditions that saw that scheme being introduced have not changed for the events sector, and in some cases, have worsened for 2021. With the limitations and restrictions surrounding the industry, most organisations continue to experience loss of revenue more aligned to 70-100 per cent rather than the 30 per cent criteria.

Moreover, BECA added that industry challenges extend well beyond March 2021 with the business events industry facing three to six months of lag time in the planning, marketing and delivery of events before revenue starts to flow through the supply chain.

Vanessa Findlay, chair of BECA commented: “We are not in the position of recovery we envisaged for early 2021 and continue to face extraordinary challenges to ensure the survival of the business events sector.

“With the impending conclusion of the JobKeeper scheme, the industry is deeply concerned that the conditions that led to JobKeeper have not improved for the business events industry. Businesses cannot remain viable with revenue losses that are averaging more than 70 per cent, and this has been ongoing for over 12 months now. We cannot see a path to recovery for the industry if it does not include some form of ongoing targeted Government support.

“BECA continues its work with the Federal Government to formulate options for ongoing support programs and extends its calls to our State Leaders to consider state-based recovery grants. We have business in the pipeline for 2021 and beyond, and need to ensure we can sustain the infrastructure and professional expertise through this critical period.”

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