COVID Update from the MEA Chair

Whilst not nearly as quickly as we would like, we are starting to see restrictions shift across the country with NSW making changes in the most recent days and we’ve seen the Tasmanian Government offer a new round of funding for small businesses that provide event infrastructure and services essential to the delivery of events. All small steps in the right direction - albeit of varying degrees across the country.

For those able to run events, we’d encourage you promote these on your social platforms so the industry can leverage off these experiences and start to build much needed consumer confidence in how we can conduct events safely.

Regrettably our members and the broader industry within Victoria are well behind the rest of the country, still experiencing heavy restrictions and with no known dedicated roadmap for the return of indoor events in the coming weeks.

I have written again to Minister Pakula on behalf our Victoria members to seek his urgent attention to needs of the events industry in Victoria. Business events are the highest yielding sector in Victoria’s visitor economy yet here we are in October without a confirmed road map that supports indoor business events commencing as a step towards the state’s recovery. This is despite considerable consultation with Government by MEA and many of our members over the past 6 months.

Whilst much needed funding has been made available to our industry colleagues in tourism and hospitality, the events industry has been overlooked by the various rounds of specific funding or grants programs announced by the Victoria Government which is astounding. Whilst we form part of the broader tourism sector, the events sector needs its own support and staged recovery strategy.

The key messages I reiterated with the Minister included:

Business events CAN operate in a controlled environment

We are not the same as mass gatherings and by the very nature of our events we can operate within controlled environments with technology and data collection available to assist along with our entire supply chain having COVID safety plans ready to implement.

Business Events CAN be introduced in a staged process

Currently Victoria is around 4 months behind the actual implementation of business events we’ve seen underway in other states. Our colleagues have been able to operate with limitations and with a staged, measured and tested response increasing at moderate levels. They have reached current levels as a staged approach enabling some events to be held and build the much needed consumer confidence in participating in events again. Victoria needs a starting point to commence this process with a moderate number of participants operating with a 1 person per 4 sqm limitation with aim to moving safely towards a 1 person per 2 sqm limitation.

Business Events CAN commence with a road map

The very nature of the events our sector delivers requires time to plan and take them to market. When restrictions lift, our return to delivering events will not be immediate. There will be lag time required to implement the planning, marketing and the end delivery of the event. Advance notice is imperative. If Victoria does not have an effective road map in the immediate weeks for business events, significant levels of business are at risk of being cancelled, moving to virtual or to other states into 2021. This means a loss to the state of businesses, jobs and Victoria’s renowned reputation in the delivery of events.

We have asked the Minster to facilitate a collaborative approach involving his Office, the Department of Health and leaders from our industry to enable us to design and implement an achievable staged approach to re-instating events within Victoria. Click here to view a copy of the full letter.

In addition we have been working closely with our colleagues from the Victorian Tourism Industry Council (VTIC). A proposal was launched late last week to address the needs of the tourism and the events sector across the State, calling on the Government to reopen the State’s visitor economy using safe and staged processes that have worked in other states. The industry position was developed by VTIC in conjunction with MEA, the Accommodation Association of Australia, Australian Camps Association, Restaurant and Catering Industry Association, Tourism Accommodation Australia (Vic), and the Victorian Caravan Parks Association, along with various Regional Tourism Boards from across the state and attracted some media attention. Click here to read the press release. 

MEA and many of our members and industry leaders within Victoria have demonstrated their willingness and commitment to work with Government to achieve the safest and most effective outcomes for our industry and the state, but the timeframes need to be escalated to ensure we are in a position to save our industry, our businesses and our jobs.

Our event manager and in-house planner members recently participated in a BECA survey to measure the level of confidence in conducting events in 2021. The number one barrier being faced by both Owners and Organisers of business events in 2021 is the uncertainty regarding future outbreaks and corresponding tightening of travel and gathering restrictions. This is closely followed by financial risk which is translating into Boards being hesitant to commit to holding a business event given these conditions. Event Managers reported 62% of their business has already cancelled, moved to 100% virtual or postponed for the first quarter of 2021 and 57% have taken the same action up until the first half of 2021.

So whilst the current restrictions are devastating for our Victorian members, the situation also has significant impact on our industry nationally. With one of our larger states heavily under restrictions and well behind the other states in terms of delivering even virtual events, it ultimately impacts on the confidence in people to invest in events again and delays the steps needed to be able to open up our borders to travel freely to attend events, book flights and accommodation and start to contribute towards our economic recovery. Whist state based events are important, national events are what contribute more significantly to the economy.

We thank all our members across the country who have been consistently working to advise their State Governments and local authorities over the past six months about what we CAN do as an industry towards reinstating events. MEA has been consistent in its approach across the country and whilst it has been challenging and indeed many days frustrating, as your industry body we are committed to continue this quest until we are well on our road to recovery.

Kate Smith 
National Chair