October 21, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier | Image: Tourism Australia

The NSW Government has unveiled a recovery package for the tourism and events industries running to over $530 million, but just $6 million of it – approximately one percent – has been specifically earmarked for the business events industry.

Major and public events and festivals have been allocated $225 million, including $150 million to support the recovery of major events across the state, of which $50 million is specifically for regional events, a $25 million Festivals Relaunch package and $50 million for the CBDs Revitalisation Program “to support events and activations in CBDs across Greater Sydney and surrounds”.

An Event Saver Fund has been flagged “to provide immediate support to organisers if events are cancelled or disrupted by any public health orders during the 2021-22 summer” but no details or value has been attached to it.

Other parts of the package include $250 million for a Stay and Rediscover scheme which will provide a $50 accommodation voucher to each NSW adult to be spent within the state, a $60 million Aviation Attraction Fund to increase flights by international airlines into Sydney and $10 million for a recovery marketing campaign.

After a three-and-a-half-month total shutdown of the business events industry, funding appears to be just $500,000 more than BESydney’s domestic subvention fund which ran through early 2021.

BESydney CEO Lyn Lewis-Smith said the funding announcement was a great outcome for Sydney’s business events industry.

“With restrictions continuing to ease, Sydney is coming back to life and the funding will continue the positive momentum that we are starting to see.

“People are excited about reconnecting with friends and family and the prospect of travel as borders open.

“We can’t wait to see that same confidence now flow through to business and to welcome our national and global business delegates back here soon.”

BESydney confirmed that the funding will be used for event subvention grants, with applications to open in rounds from late November 2021.

ICC Sydney CEO, Chair of the Sydney Business Events Coalition and Deputy Chair of the Business Events Council of Australia, Geoff Donaghy, said the funding package had been “well received”.

“The advocacy of the members of the Sydney Business Events Coalition across various government bodies, Ministerial offices, aligned association groups and all tiers of government has not gone unheard,” he said.

Donaghy believes the Event Saver Fund may give a boost to short lead business events taking place over summer and that the accommodation vouchers will also benefit the business events sector as they can be used to stay overnight for event attendance.

“The $150 million for major events will directly and indirectly support our events through the potential for direct investment or increased viability of aligned events,” he said.

He believes the Aviation Attraction Fund will also support business events – in the longer term, micenet assumes – by helping to bring back international events and delegates.

While all support is welcome, the package provides little to help business events businesses survive until the impact of BESydney’s subvention program is likely to be felt – if BESydney’s grant applications start in late November, the spending of dollars is unlikely to begin in earnest until March 2022 or later – four months after all financial support ends for businesses and more than five months after individual income support is withdrawn just over a week from now.

Stu Katzen, owner of event agency Eventify, who has started a grass roots movement to garner support for the business events industry nationally, said the package doesn’t address industry need.

“Yet again NSW Government has delivered a package that does not address the grass roots business events industry’s needs,” he says.

He said the amount allocated to business events is disproportionate to the value of the industry.

“Whilst it is fantastic that so much money will be spent in NSW to revive tourism, festivals and regional events for the state, the smallest amount of $6 million to bring business events back to the city doesn’t address the dire issues business events are currently facing.”

“The package doesn’t solve the issue of corporate Australia’s current fear for holding events, or save the many small business event agencies or incentive agencies currently waiting for business events to come back online, with no JobSaver or Disaster [Payment] available after November 2021.

“I foresee little or zero trickle down to business events agencies such as mine and the hundreds of other SME business events agencies all struggling to stay afloat with no government recognition and little or no future government financial support,” said Katzen.