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The Australian economy is set to lose $35.7 billion in direct expenditure over the next 12 months, as nearly all business events scheduled for 2020 (96%) are cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19, new figures from the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) show.

The data, derived from a study of businesses across the business events industry, projects that a further $17.2 billion in direct value to the economy will be wiped out – on top of the loss of direct expenditure – as a result of the global pandemic which has rapidly, and indefinitely, closed down events in Australia.

Dr. Vanessa Findlay

Chair of the Business Events Council of Australia

Chair of the Business Events Council of Australia, Dr. Vanessa Findlay, says, “Australia’s business events industry is not only a major direct contributor to the economy but also an important catalyst for business. It enables networks and partnerships, fosters confidence and investment, acts as a market place for buyers and sellers and supports regional dispersal and development.”

“However, in just a few months COVID-19 has brought the industry to its knees. It is not just experiencing hibernation, but complete loss of revenue. The industry was first to feel the impacts when gatherings were banned following the pandemic outbreak, and it is looking increasingly likely that gatherings will be last activity that is reinstated. With business events involving extended planning, marketing and booking lead times, the industry faces at least a 12 to 18 month lag between the return of gatherings and full recovery. This is highlighted as one of the biggest industry challenges within the Framework, which advocates implementing incentives and motivations to ensure corporates, associations and governments have the confidence to retain event bookings in 2021.”

Findlay continues, “This is why, on behalf of the industry, BECA has moved quickly to develop the coordinated COVID-19 Business Events Response and Recovery Framework and is working closely with Government on its implementation. Supported by a well-developed policy aligned with Australia’s competitive strengths, the business events industry will play a critical role in the recovery and rebound of Australia’s broader economy from this pandemic.”

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Staffing losses across the industry are estimated to hit over 92,000 between the end of 2019 and 30 June 2020. Of those staff already laid off between the end of 2019 to March 2020, four in five (78%) were casual or freelance workers, while one in five (22%) were employed on a permanent basis. Three in five businesses working in the industry (59%) believe it will take them a year or longer to recover once COVID-19 is no longer impacting health, revealing the extent to which the highest yielding component of Australia’s visitor economy has been decimated by the pandemic.

The industry is one of the quiet achievers of the Australian economy, growing at around 6% annually since 2014. In FY19 it directly generated over $35 billion in economic activity and employed over 229,000 people across a range of sectors and trades. However, the industry now faces 100% loss of revenue due to the escalating effects of COVID-19, on top of bushfires earlier this year.

In response, the peak industry body, BECA, today announced that it is working with the Government to urgently implement a coordinated industry strategy. The COVID-19 Business Events Response and Recovery Framework aim to sustain the business events industry over the next 12 months and position it to rebound and grow effectively following the pandemic.