Events Industry on its Knees

Events Industry on its Knees

The Australian business events industry has lost nearly all hope of recovering in 2021 after the loss of $35 billion in direct expenditure in 2020 by COVID-19.

The industry was one of the quiet achievers of the Australian economy, growing at around 6% annually since 2014. In FY19 it directly generated over $35 billion in economic activity and employed over 229,000 people across a range of sectors and trades. However, most operators have abandoned all hope of a 2021 rebound after an awful start to the year as a result of “lack of clarity and consistency” in state border openings and closures across Australia dn the ditch to NZ.

The CEO of the International Convention Centre Sydney, Geoff Donaghy, forecasts the venue revenue this year to be down by 90 per cent. He stated that the industry will be lucky to do 10 per cent of normal annual operating revenue. “While there were signs of recovery as the number of events booked at ICC is slowly increasing, most were much smaller than usual, with the big revenue-generating blockbusters thin on the ground”.

Business events create a unique environment that fosters collaboration, confidence, idea sharing, buying and selling, and networking. Some of the greatest business ideas, scientific developments and technical innovations have been sparked during an event workshop or over a glass of wine afterwards.

Mr Dounaghy and other Conference centre operators such as Karstens Conferencing & Meeting spaces MD Hendrik Karsten lament border closures by various state governments following the NSW COVID-19 outbreak over Christmas and New Year damaged confidence among consumers about crossing state lines, due to the legitimate fear of group gatherings & in the event of travel they may not be able to return home.

He stated that most events currently in the pipeline can be done safely but lack of border clarity and consistency is a major constraint as it increases uncertainty among potential delegates about travelling interstate. “Until we get full and unfettered travel, the industry is very much hamstrung.”

This was demonstrated by the cancellation of the business events industry’s forum, AIME (the Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event), scheduled for the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre in late March.

Silke Calder, AIME event director, explained that most of the feedback from the interstate government was that they were reluctant to commit as they might not be able to get home.

The chairwoman of peak industry group Business Events Council of Australia, Vanessa Findlay, stated that revenue losses for the sector had averaged more than 70 per cent over the past year and called on the federal government to extend JobKeeper, which ends on March 28. “We are not in the position of recovery we envisaged for early 2021 and continue to face extraordinary challenges to ensure the survival of the business events sector,”

Many Australian businesses in the event industry are now looking at 12-18 months of little or no revenue and face the ongoing challenge of survival, sustaining their organisation and retaining their employees without an income stream until events are reinstated to a more robust level.”

BECA and other industry groups including the Association of Australian Conference Bureaux are also lobbying the federal government to streamline a $50 million support package announced in September 2020 and ensure money goes to those who need it most.


  • Business event revenue down by up to 90 per cent, no bounce until at least 2022

by Martin Kelly

  • $35.7 Billion Wiped from the Economy as COVID-19 Decimates Australia’s Business Events Sector

By Dr Vanessa Findlay


by ICC Sydney