The Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) has welcomed the government’s extension of the JobKeeper payment as a critical lifeline for the industry, but warns that more support is needed to save the industry and the thousands of jobs that hang in the balance.

Yesterday, BECA released the results of an industry-wide survey that showed that JobKeeper was helping up to 96 per cent of industry businesses retain employees. According to BECA, the survey indicates that around 110,000 employees across the industry were being supported by JobKeeper.

BECA chair, Dr Vanessa Findlay, said: “The business events industry, which comprises meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions, was one of the first industries to be impacted by COVID-19, one of the hardest hit, and may be one of the last industries to recover due to the long lead times between booking and actually holding a major business event.”

“The results of our survey show that JobKeeper was a critical lifeline for thousands of businesses across Australia and over 100,000 employees across the industry, and we welcome the government’s announced extension of the program into 2021.”

The business events industry has been one of the quiet achievers of the Australian economy – growing at around 6 per cent annually since 2014, directly contributing over $35 billion in economic activity in 2019 and employing over 229,000 people across a broad range of sectors and trades.

In 2019, 43.7 million people attended more than 484,382 business events across Australia.

The industry’s reliance on in-person gatherings and interactions of people leave it particularly exposed to the necessary ongoing public health orders and restrictions. As a result, 96 per cent of business events scheduled for 2020 in Australia have been cancelled or postponed.

Major international events due to be held in Australia in 2021 are increasingly in doubt.

Dr Findlay continued: “The survey shows that our businesses are struggling and that recovery will be a hard and a long slog.

“It brings into stark reality the situation that the business events industry is facing when three-quarters of respondents have had to stand down employees, let them go completely or significantly reduce their hours.

“I am also very worried that 67 per cent of businesses noted they have no events booked for 2020, with 48 per cent reporting they had no business booked for 2021 either.

“Though JobKeeper has helped the industry maintain critical capacity and capability among our workforce, the nature of our industry means that without events being held, thousands of casuals have been forced out of work which we deeply regret.”

To aid the recovery of the Australian business events industry, BECA has called for targeted government support that will build confidence and create momentum for people to get back to in-person business events. Close engagement with all Australian governments and a coordinated effort across industry stakeholders is essential to ensure the support targets those areas most critical to the industry’s recovery and its successful rebound.

Dr Findlay concluded: “Thank you to the BECA members and the wider business events industry for participating in the Future Confidence and JobKeeper Impact survey, which provides a very strong evidence-base for our work with government.

“Understanding the impact of current government support and industry’s ongoing pressure points ensures that we can deliver the best possible outcomes during this incredibly challenging time.

“As an industry, we want to emerge from the crisis in a position to help build business confidence across the Australian economy and, when the time is right, grow Australia’s share of global events in what will be a highly competitive and disrupted market.”

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