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Downward Spiral For NZ Events Sector With More Than 3,000 Events Cancelled To Date

Event organisers, suppliers, venues and artists are among those within New Zealand’s substantial events sector that have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some operators have already seen a 100 per cent loss in activities - and ultimately in revenue - with the situation set to become even more critical with the Government’s announcement of today of lifting COVID-19 alert status to level 3 with mass gathering cancelled and public venues closed.

A survey carried out by the New Zealand Events Association (NZEA) an independent body representing the events industry, prior to last Thursday’s announcement of restrictions on indoor events of over 100 people and today’s announcement, gives a snapshot of how badly the sector has been hit.

The results of the survey completed by 542 events-related organisations and 209 independent event professionals shows that more than 3,000 events have been cancelled to date. A further 994 events are postponed indefinitely and an estimated 10,873 still scheduled in the next six months. As a consequence, 1,377 full time equivalents are already lost or projected to be lost from the sector in the coming months. Those numbers will go up since the announcement of today. .

“Normally this time of the year is our ‘make hay while the sun shines’ period, our revenue is normally flowing in steadily as we prep to deliver some of our biggest events around the country. However, since Monday last week we haven’t had a single person enter one of our events. The tap has been turned off – completely,” says Aaron Carter, Managing Director of Total Sport. The business cancelled its biggest and most profitable event (The Partners Life DUAL) last Monday and postponed their upcoming event, The Wild Kiwi. They are now reviewing more upcoming events in their schedule, with potential further cancellations.

Much of the events industry workforce consists of small to medium businesses, self-employed contractors and sole traders whose revenue streams come exclusively from event-related activities, all of which is curtailed for the foreseeable future.

Business events - worth around half a billion NZ$ per annum to the country alone – are also a casualty of COVID-19-related international travel restrictions on top of corporate policy quickly put in place to restrict delegates from attending.

The Governments’ economic support package announced last week has been welcomed by the NZEA as a first step in the right direction, however industry feedback indicates that further measures are needed to ensure New Zealand’s events sector can survive this unprecedented situation.

Brent Spillane, Managing Director of XPO Exhibitions confirmed that their events business, like others in the sector, is hurting. “The entire value chain from organiser to venue to supplier services are in genuine financial pain like no other period in our trading history. With no end in sight for the current ban on mass gatherings there’s a very difficult period ahead while we effectively halt our core function of running shows. The assistance we can collectively garner now from central Government to remain open will prove critical in protecting our vital platform for NZ business recovery, once the gates re-open.”

Like many other sectors impact by COVID-19, the industry is in a holding pattern that will see it crumble in short order without targeted additional support from the Government. “Event professionals are calling for tax relief, further wage assistance to retain key staff and assistance with overheads to help cover their costs of cancelled events, all to be able to stay in business,” says Segolene de Fontenay, NZEA General Manager.

“With this industry accustomed to putting public safety above all else, we understand and fully endorse the event restrictions put in place by Government to contain the spread of COVID-19. However, there is a very real prospect that, without additional targeted support, many event-related businesses will not survive over the coming weeks and months. This in turn would jeopardise the significant contribution the events industry can make to the economic recovery of New Zealand’s tourism sector. It also puts thousands of regional, community and corporate events that enrich the country’s social, cultural and economic wellbeing under threat,” concludes de Fontenay.

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