The beleaguered events industry is the latest sector to be thrown a lifeline by the government in an attempt to aid recovery from the coronavirus crisis. The prime minister Scott Morrison has announced a $50 million cash injection to encourage businesses to attend events, tradeshows and conferences around Australia.
Businesses will be able to apply for grants to assist with the costs associated with exhibiting including the hire of exhibition spaces, the design and manufacture of displays, travel and accommodation.
The PM said Australia’s lucrative $36 billion business events sector had virtually ground to a halt during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Getting business events up and running again will be a critical part of the recovery of our tourism industry, but will also have huge flow-on effects through the entire economy,” Morrison said.
“This is not only about supporting events companies and venues, but will also be a shot in the arm for a broad range of businesses and the people they employ – whether it’s accommodation providers, those who build exhibitions, caterers, cleaners or those offering audio-visual services.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the program would provide opportunities and encourage businesses from regional Australia to attend events in their own backyard.
“With many international trade shows out of reach for the time being, making it less expensive and easier for regional businesses to attend events in Australia will also present new opportunities to connect with and secure new customers,” the Deputy PM said.
“Business events encourage domestic travel and the more events we can lock in, the more people we can get flowing through our airports, on planes and staying in hotels around the country.”
Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the sector had been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic with around 95 per cent of business events for 2020 either cancelled or postponed.
“Our business events sector is doing it incredibly tough at present and getting events put back into the calendar will help this key part of our tourism industry which supports around 230 000 jobs turn the corner,” Birmingham said.
“By incentivising attendance by exhibitors this should give event companies and organisers across Australia the confidence they need to move ahead with the planning of business events.”
Under the Business Events Exhibitor Grants program, Australian businesses exhibiting at an approved business meeting, convention, conference and incentives event in 2021 will be able to apply for upfront grants to cover up to 50 per cent of their costs ($10,000 – $250,000).
The Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) has welcomed the government’s funding announcement and hope the grants will go some way towards repairing the decimated industry.
Under the Australian Business Events Grants Program – which was developed in close collaboration with BECA – approved business events, including meetings, conventions, incentives and exhibitions, will be able to apply for upfront grants to cover up to 50 per cent of their costs (between $10,000 and $250,000).
BECA believes the targeted support will drive confidence and create momentum for the sector, better positioning it for recovery as market conditions improve.
Chair of the Business Events Council of Australia, Dr. Vanessa Findlay, said the announcement has been wholeheartedly welcomed by the sector which has been left devastated by the impacts of the pandemic. It is estimated the loss to the economy is in excess of $35 billion.
“Today’s announcement is an important step towards recovery. We can now look to rebuilding business confidence and kick-starting momentum across the entire business events supply chain – for meetings, conventions, incentives and exhibitions. BECA’s goal is to both support the business events industry and maximise the contribution that this makes to the recovery of our wider economy. This support package will be pivotal to that,” Findlay said.
Close collaboration with Government led to the funding, with BECA’s Recovery and Rebound Framework highlighting the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the sector. BECA will now be the lead industry body that will advise Government on the design and implementation of the program.
Last year over 480,000 business events were held in Australia and over 43 million people attended a business event in the form of a meeting, convention, exhibition or incentive event. In a recent survey conducted by BECA, 67 per cent of businesses said they don’t have any business events confirmed for 2020 and 48% of businesses said they don’t have any business events confirmed for 2021 either.
 Lost Business Report: Impacts of COVID-19 on the Business Events Industry, McCrindle, April 2020
 BECA Future Confidence and JobKeeper Impact Report, August 2020
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