Events under pressure: COVID-19

Here’s what’s happening in the events and tourism industry right now. Events have been cancelling and postponing and the immediate future for small businesses and the people in it – many who are freelancers – is unknown.

Today, 13 March, the Australian Government announced that a national $30m coronavirus (COVID-19) education campaign will be launching tomorrow. It will first appear on social media before expanding across all platforms for the rest of the year.

The campaign will provide timely, factual and consistent information about the status of COVID-19, and spread advice on behaviours Australians should adopt to prevent and mitigate the impact of the virus, the government said.

The campaign will also promote the triage process for COVID-19, dedicated respiratory clinics and healthcare consultation options via telephone and video call. The primary target for the campaign will be groups at risk of contracting the virus, including older Australians and people with chronic health conditions.

The campaign will be translated into more than 20 languages. The campaign will run until the end of the year, with the $30m coming from the 2019-20 and 2020-21 financial year budgets.

Federal Government support for tourism businesses

At the Destination Australia Conference in Adelaide on 12 March, Simon Birmingham announced a Federal Government package of $1 billion to support tourism businesses affected by the crisis.

The money comes from the government’s $17 billion stimulus package.

The fund will include cash payments low income earners, wage subsidies for apprentices and trainees, significant expansion of the instant asset write-off and administrative relief from the ATO.

Simon Birmingham yesterday at the conference, “We’ve already invested $76M of support on top of TA’s $150M budget, just for 2020 through a domestic campaign to boost local holidayers with the #holidayherethisyear campaign.

“Today we’re announcing a nationwide package to boost economic prosperity for trade and business. There’ll be payments to small and medium business to retain staff, maintain the skills and specific support for trainees and trades. We’re introducing a break for small businesses with asset threshold increased from $30k to $150k with immediate write-off…and $1B for businesses most affected by Coronavirus and clearly the tourism industry is at the front and centre of it. And finally a domestic tourism campaign aimed at NZ to increase visitation quickly.

Businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million will also be eligible for a tax-free payment up to $25,000 to help them to pay bills, pay staff and stay afloat.

Tourism Australia response

Still recovering from the impact of bushfires and the global misconceptions that “all of Australia was on fire”, Tourism Australia MD Phillipa Harrison commented “Just as we were recovering from bushfires, along came Coronavirus. We need to pivot again. The damage from the bushfire is still there, but this is different. We might not know exactly what going to happen at this point, but we can provide information to at least ensure the narrative is correct.”

Phillipa went on to launch the broadcast ad of its new campaign “There’s Still Nothing Like Australia” film at the Destination Australia Conference. Although unsure at this time which channels it would appear on, TA posted it on their website yesterday – see the ad here.

Tourism Australia is leaning heavily into its long-standing and successful global campaign platform, ‘There’s Nothing Like Australia’, by reminding the world that ‘There’s Still Nothing Like Australia’.

The new campaign takes inspiration from Tourism Australia’s long-standing and successful There’s Nothing Like Australia global campaign platformreminding the world that There’s Still Nothing Like Australia.

The campaign is supported with the $25 million allocated to Tourism Australia through the Australian Government’s National Bushfire Recovery Fund. The campaign aims to stimulate demand in the short-term and gradually rebuild Australia’s reputation as a highly desirable destination.

Bob East, Tourism Australia Chair commented at the Destination Australia Conference, “Our industry has been through these things before and the world has an inate desire to travel. We need to be first out of the blocks and calibrate our marketing when the word is ready to receive our message.”

And in an act of generosity, support and goodwill for the tourism industry operators, Tourism Australia announced it would refund the cost of attending yesterday’s conference.

Event industry response

Last week, the event industry called on the government to make a public statement declaring it is safe to hold events. The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) also released a statement on 8 March stating: “At this time the AHPPC consider that public events should proceed, but strongly recommend people that are unwell with cough or fever or other respiratory symptoms should not attend public events or gatherings.”

Despite the industry calling for calm, at the time of writing this news, an announcement has been made from Federal Government that suggests banning gatherings with crowds of over 500, which will impact events. Read this latest announcement here.

COVID-19 Information Exchange, Australia

To support the businesses affected by the Coronavirus outbreak, Meetings & Events Australia (MEA) and EEAA are partnering to host COVID-19 Information Exchanges, in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide next week. The Chief Medical Office and Health Departments have been invited to answer questions from the industry.

Find out more here.

Legal advice

Page 4 of MEA MAtters that was released this morning has some sound advice from Matt Crouch from Crouch Legal on risk mitigation, force majeure, insurance and the difference between cancellation and postponement. It might be helpful for your business, so read it here.

Industry impacts

To date, many events have already been cancelled, postponed or moved online through live streaming. The immediate impact is already being felt by front-line event and tourism providers including venues, hotels, airlines and industry suppliers including PCOs, event companies, AV, catering and transport. Many freelancers, who are the backbone of festivals, major events, theatre, entertainment and live music are already impacted with contracts being immediately cancelled.

However, the long-term impact on the full supply chain for the events and tourism industries is yet to be calculated and the impact may not be known for many months or even years and sadly, some businesses may not survive the dramatic downturn.

A great piece from CIM on 12 March counts the global economic impact of the virus just on exhibitions alone, as $40B. Of this, UFI has estimated lost orders of around 13 billion euros ($22 billion) in Asia/Pacific, and 9.7 billion euros ($17 billion) in Europe.

Meanwhile, as we write this post, Melbourne Grand Prix Here’s has just cancelled, causing chaos.

Here’s more major events that have been impacted in the last week. We’ll keep this updated as more news rolls in:

Cancelled or postponed

Sydney Royal Easter Show

Live Nation shows, until end March at this time

Melbourne International Comedy Festival

2020 Australian Surf Life Saving Championships

The Business of Events
South by SouthWest (SXSW), Austin Texas

Dark MOFO Tasmania

Parramasala, Sydney

Worldwide Radio Summit 2020 and MUSEXPO Creative Summit 2020

IMEX Frankfurt

Get Global

Events reimagined
Salesforce “reimagined” goes online

Cricket Australia Australia NZ matches will play to empty stadiums

Announcements pending
St Patricks Day Parade TBC
Anzac Day events TBC

Events moving ahead
ATE is going ahead in May (as at 13 March)
Evolve, MEA’s national conference (as at 13 March)
IBTM World, Spain December 2020
IMEX America, Las Vegas, September 2020

Rebuilding after crisis

Chris Savage, Business growth specialist and crisis management expert and CEO of The Savage Company shared his insights at the Destination Australia conference on 12 March, into how to rebuild following a crisis. His commentary and points were intelligent and actionable.

Crisis Principles

  1. Take control – play it day by day
  2. Broaden the issue
  3. Expect more bad news
  4. Short term sacrifice
  5. Pre-emptive planning

How to face a crisis

  • Face reality – Be transparent, tell the truth, state it the way it is
  • Short vs long term – it’s the way that you communicate when in crisis that makes the difference in the long term
  • Collaborate with industry and each other
  • Short vs long term – it’s the way that you communicate when in crisis that makes the difference in the long term

What to do this year to rebound

  1. Build on the opportunity and be ready to jump. Don’t pivot, but innovate. You’ll need to find new audiences and go local
  2. Be prescriptive – don’t give buyers too many choices, just tell them the 5 things you are offering. Tell them what they’re going to do when they come.
  3. Don’t discount, add more (keep your price stable but add something in)
  4. Tell new and powerful stories –  90% of our decisions are based on emotion and only 10% on logic. Connect to humans through your storytelling
  5. Create new images and memories – rebuilding after the fires is still important, share stories and images about growth, people and place
  6. Get everyone on message – everyone needs to say the same thing
  7. Be ready for a sharp recovery – when it comes it will come back strong

In conclusion, our industry now, more than ever, needs to collaborate and support each other. Many #eventprofs who are contractors will be out of work, small businesses will suffer and unfortunately, it’s likely there is more to come. Please be supportive of each other, check in on your industry mates and where you can, keep meeting, keep events going, even if they are online, and engage local suppliers. All of these small things can help keep our people and the Australian industry buoyant, or at least keep some of us afloat while the crisis unfolds.


This has just been released by BECA (Business Events Council of Australia). This survey captures the impact and loss of events on your business, as a result of COVID-19.

Please complete the survey and the excel link BY 9AM MONDAY 23 MARCH 2020. The data will be sent to the Federal Government for support for our industry.