By Graeme Kemlo

The business events industry has been putting its case for support to the federal government since March 2020, says chair of the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA), Dr Vanessa Findlay.

Asked whether we would see a return to business events in Australia in 2021, she said: “Yes, I think so.”

One of the reasons for her optimism is that Australia is well positioned with its vaccine program.

Recovery was always regarded as having a two-phased approach.

“We focused on getting domestic business events up and running in the first phase and beyond that, what we call the rebound phase, is when international borders re-open and we get back to the large international business events that Australia is so good at hosting,” Dr Findlay said.

I am still very optimistic around the opportunities for business events in the latter half of 2021… maybe even in Q2 2021. We’re starting to see people regain their confidence in travelling and once everyone has been able to get a vaccination that confidence will increase again.

“A number of countries have done as well as Australia has in managing COVID and I think that offers great possibilities for us to set up some international pilots to get borders open via a travel bubble.”

Dr Findlay said the travel bubbles should be in place later this year and apart from the existing New Zealand arrangement: “We are each other’s greatest source of business events travel,” she said.

Australia’s Pacific Island neighbors and parts of South East Asia could be partners. Vanessa said China has been a significant part of our travel sector. Asked if she thought business events could be the ‘olive branch’ that mended the current broken relationship between Australia and China, she said it was possible.

“There’s a lot of opportunities to see what we can do about the state of our relationship with China,” she said.

“Business events certainly are a driver of our relationship, as is international education and international students.
“We can definitely play a role in rebuilding our relationship, but for the moment I don’t see that being one of the big drivers for our recovery in 2021.”

And while optimistic given the current industry trendline, she said international borders would probably not open until early 2022.

Even the most infected country in the world, the USA, could be considered.

“Once the vaccination program rolls out and we can get a credible and verifiable certification scheme sitting behind that then I think there’s a solution there for all countries,” she said.

Vanessa said she had been briefed by the federal government on ‘GoPassport’, a certification program which is being built in Australia… “so work is already underway.”