March 30 2021

By Joyce DiMascio

The NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, delivered an upbeat and wide-ranging speech at the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia forum at ICC Sydney on Monday.

He called on the industry to get ready for business events to rebound, which he predicted would be fast and strong due to high levels of pent-up demand.

But he urged the industry not to be complacent and “stand in concrete”.

He said that Australia and New South Wales had done an excellent job managing COVID-19. With the rollout of the vaccine he said demand was returning and this, along with our ability to hold safe events, gave him great confidence.

Minister Ayres also provided details of the NSW Government’s stimulus funding package announced last Thursday.

The promised $5.5m would provide dollar-for-dollar funding in a two-tiered program for business events under and over 150 people. It would be weighted towards Sydney but there would also be funding for regional business events. Industry is required to match the government’s contribution.

Details on how to apply would be available for owners and investors on the NSW government website within the next 48 hours, he said.

“We aim to make the application process as quick as possible,” he said.

“Our aim is to sure up a weaker couple of quarters – this is where the main weakness is in [the] post-JobKeeper market.”

For events of up to 150 people, funding is capped at $15,000 and for events of 151 people or more the grant is capped at $30,000.

“That will be available to the entire business events sector, it will be events agnostic and will allow businesses to apply as their events come up and as they are planning their events,” said Ayres.

“But there will be a strong focus on the next two quarters. The next two quarters is where the weakness is. It’s also about ensuring that businesses that are contemplating [a restart]… in a post-JobKeeper market can be more confident about [event] business being booked.”

The event also included a panel of leaders from both within and outside of the events industry discussing staffing and skills issues | All photos: Orlando Sydney Event Photography

He predicted that if the vaccine is rolled out to 50 to 60 percent of the population by the end of the September quarter, confidence would return.

In all the policies being implemented by the NSW Government there was an intention to strike a balance between health and the economy, he said.

With lot of pent-up demand, he expected to see a surge in confidence as more of the vaccine is rolled out.

“The cog is wound up incredibly tightly and when that spring is let go, there will be a surge in strong demand.

“I think there is an important message here – and that is that this is a community of risk-takers that balance the commercial realities of the sector.”

He urged the industry not to stand in concrete, but to be ready to take off again

“I need you to continue to take those measured risks into the future. If you stay static right now, you will miss the early revenue opportunities that will be presented to you in this recovery phase.”

“We are still living with COVID, but that doesn’t mean we have to operate in an environment where we don’t do business. In fact it’s the exact opposite.

“For the next six months, we have to operate in an environment where COVID is getting under control both here and across the globe.

“We know we will be tested and challenged in the future, but that’s not a reason not to plan to do business.”

He said NSW and Australia were seen as world leaders in managing the response to the pandemic.

“We’re coming out of COVID, but we are not out of the pandemic, we are going to have to adapt.”

Minister Ayres also commented on the employment market and the competition for skilled labour.

He said the substantial disruption in the employment market provided a fantastic opportunity to bring people back into the visitor economy.

“Employment opportunities will be sustained – it’s a good time to be making your businesses as attractive as possible to new staff,” he said.