August 17, 2021 | By Graeme Kemlo | Image above: Tourism Australia
In March 2020 Bill Wright’s ID Events Australia had $50 million worth of contracts for international inbound business events, but he says he has seen no revenue since COVID-19 hit. ID Events is a business events export earner for Australia.
“I’d say 80 percent of our business has been postponed, but our business is 50 years old, we’ve been operating since 1973 in the same space and we work two to three years ahead. In March last year our books were quite full for the immediate and longer term. We had $50 million worth of business more than a year ahead…and we’ve done a lot of work on that already but for hardly any revenue,” says the ID Events Australia Chairman.
ID Events has invested heavily over the years in shaping the Australian business events experience, working closely with Tourism Australia, airlines, hotels, destinations and service providers. Between 65 and 70 percent of its business is incentive and the remainder corporate events, almost all held here in Australia for Fortune 500 companies from around the globe.
Forward business includes an event scheduled for October 2022 for a global accounting firm to hold a corporate meeting in Australia for 2,000 people, and a contract to manage an event for an international distribution company which will bring 15,000 people to Australia from around Asia.
“We are a very well run little company and to this day we have never borrowed any money, but we will be borrowing money and [seeking] the support we need from Government,” says Wright.
For ID Events, the problem is the Federal Government says that companies need to seek COVID-related financial support from state governments. Wright insists his is an export business which falls under the federal trade department. Representations have been made to Trade Minister Tehan by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“We have helped suppliers to tailor their product, whether a coach company, a hotel or a venue…we played a part in moulding that over a long period of time but we have also invested money in market to develop the confidence of what Australia can deliver for the high cost product.
“What we’ve got in play here is a big investment over a long period of time and if the Federal Government doesn’t support this specialised area of industry…we won’t get business back until the middle of next year. Very few companies will survive. It will just decimate the inbound industry, not just corporate events and incentives, but it will decimate the structure of the industry,” he says.
Asked whether he thought the Federal Government understood the sector, Wright says, “no definitely not… because there has been very little planning…you have to be fair, it is a very tough role they have to play. But there’s been no guidance, no targets…it is just coming out now”.
He does support the four-phase reopening plan and the vaccine passport plan which he hopes might see international borders open by March 2022, although the Federal Budget predicted international borders would remain closed until mid-2022.