BECA says government is failing business events industry as JobKeepeer scheme ceases

Australia’s business events sector has reacted strongly to the end of the government JobKeeper scheme, which has supported industry (including business events) over past months and which came to an end on 28 March.

The government has stated with the cessation of JobKeeper, other support that is proportionate, timely, scalable, and targeted to drive demand will be introduced for those industry sectors still facing economic challenges.

The business events sector saw its revenue streams decimated by over 75%, according to the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) which has said the ceasing of the government support scheme leaves the sector in an uncertain and critical situation, with severe limitations and restrictions still in place.

The business conditions that saw the JobKeeper scheme being introduced have not altered for our sector, BECA has noted, saying that, in some cases, they have worsened for 2021.

“The industry still faces critical challenges over the next 6-9 months whilst the market regains confidence to plan, deliver, book, and pay to attend events across the country,” the BECA statement said, adding that ongoing targeted support was needed as an urgent priority to ensure the business events sector could be sustained and retain its event professionals into the future.

“For the industry to return to its proven position as a major economic driver for the Australian economy, contributing AUD$36bn (US27.45bn) and 230,000 jobs in FY19, short-term targeted support is critical to retaining core capacity and capability,” BECA said.

The Australian Government Support and Future Confidence Report’s key findings for 2021, BECA said, demonstrates the need for ongoing support:

While 87% of business events businesses accessed the initial JobKeeper programme to September 2020, reliance on the wage subsidy continued with 85% of businesses still accessing the programme for the January to March 2021 period.

With the cessation of JobKeeper and without further government support, 47% of businesses will make more staff redundant, and 23% of businesses will close. Sixty-one percent of business events businesses saw a 75-100% reduction in turnover for 2020 compared to 2019, while 44% forecast the same result for the six months to June 2021, according to BECA, which has carried out research surveys on the business events supply chain over the past year.

The business events industry has also seen a shift in confidence with 50% now believing they will return to pre-crisis levels in ‘3-5 years’’– a significant 10% shift from the ‘1-2 year’ response in July 2020.

BECA said that the poor design of the $50m Business Events Grant Programme has left the industry with virtually no targeted government support post JobKeeper. “The programme established is misaligned and has not delivered support to the industry in the scale or time frame that is critically needed. After more than six months, only $8m of the $50m has been earmarked for distribution to grant recipients, BECA claimed.

Dr Vanessa Findlay (pictured), chair of BECA, commented: “The bottom line is that without additional government support to get business event businesses through the next six months, 23% of businesses will be closing their doors and a further 32% are questioning if they have the means to survive. 47% of the businesses that think they will survive will be letting more staff go.

“The Business Events Grant Programme is simply not sufficient nor effective enough to bring the support desperately needed. We will not only see more job losses and business failures in the short term but also long-term ramifications for the economic potential of the industry. We will lose market share to other countries that may never return.

“Indicators for a return to in-person business events in the next six months are looking good but we need to survive now to make it there. To do that we need additional targeted government support. BECA will continue its engagement with government towards achieving these critical outcomes.”