This morning Business Council of Australia (BECA) reported that the Australian economy is set to lose over $35 billion in direct expenditure over the next 12 months, as nearly all business events for 2020 are shut down out by COVID-19.
On top of this a further $17.2 billion in direct value to the economy has been wiped out and more than 92,000 jobs will be lost by mid-year, as the pandemic continues to devastate the business events industry.
The enormity of these figures does not surprise me. I have watched with astonishment the speed at which this pandemic has unfolded. The word unprecedented is used a lot in reference to COVID-19, but I cannot think of a better one to describe the situation my industry faces today, and the knock-on of this on Australia’s economic health.
Behind these dollar figures there is also a much bigger story. Those of us working within this industry sometimes refer to our sector as the ‘quiet achiever’ of the Australian economy. This is not just because of its economic value but also its enormous contribution to Australia’s cultural, social and knowledge economies.
Business events create a unique environment that fosters collaboration, confidence, idea sharing, buying and selling, and networking. Some of the greatest business ideas, scientific developments and technical innovations have been sparked during an event workshop or over a glass of wine afterwards.
Beyond this our industry has the halo effect of supporting local communities, educational institutions, businesses and the wider regions in which we operate. At ICC Sydney we work with over 135 food, drink and wine suppliers to showcase the best of Australian produce to our guests. It is devastating to think of the effect our situation is now having on these businesses and their people.
As we look ahead it is becoming increasingly certain that events will be one of the last things to return when Australia begins to recover from this pandemic. As a result, our industry is facing a tough fight for survival and a long road to recovery.
That is why I wholeheartedly welcome the coordinated industry response to the crisis, led by BECA and developed in close collaboration with the Government. The COVID-19 Business Events Response and Recovery Framework aims to sustain the business events industry over the next 12 months and position it to rebound and grow the other side of this crisis.
This has been spearheaded by Vanessa Findlay, Chair of BECA, and supported by colleagues across the industry. They have done an exceptional job in identifying and driving forward those urgent measures needed to protect the industry now and ensure its long term health. As Deputy-Chair of BECA I am proud to have been part of this process. I am confident that Australia will return to economic health and that the business events industry will play a critical role in this.