Event bodies across Australia and New Zealand are calling for exemptions to restrictions on mass gatherings, as both countries begin to ease their respective coronavirus restrictions.
Claudia Sagripanti (pictured above), chief executive of the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia (EEAA), believes it is vitally important Australian federal and state governments understand the business events industry can operate under a controlled set of ‘bio-safe’ principles.
She argues the industry should not be subject to mass gathering restrictions that apply to other large-scale public events, like sporting fixtures, festivals and large-scale consumer events.
Her comments came just a day before Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed the National Cabinet’s three-step plan for easing coronavirus restrictions across the country, with both the second and third phase allowing gatherings of up to 20 to 100 people, respectively.
However, in neither of the three phases was there mention of the possibility of large scale events, exhibitions or conferences returning.
“The business events industry run highly organised events where we can trace every one of our visitors, delegates, speakers and exhibitors as well as monitor, track and put in place a range of measures that can ensure these events comply with government measures on hygiene and physical distancing,” Sagripanti said.
It comes in a bid to expedite a restart date for domestic events in the Australian market, with the sector currently chewing through at least $2.5 billion per month.
However, forward calendars show once events get back up-and-running, they are expected to bring some 400,000 delegates to Australia, contributing more than $1 billion to the economy over the next seven years.
“The business events industry, which includes exhibitions, conferences and business meetings contributes more than $35 billion to the national economy, with another $17.2 billion in value add and employs over 229,000 people across a range of sectors and trades,” Sagripanti said.
“The re-opening of this important sector will support the government’s objective to implement work safe guidelines to get Australians back to work.
“It is of vital importance to ensure that governments understand the role business events plays in restarting the economy.”
Together with the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) and other major industry associations including the Venue Management Association (VMA), the EEAA is developing safety and hygiene principles for government, health officials and the business events community.
EEAA said the principles would support “stringent” public health guidelines to manage exhibitions, conferences, meetings and events, and ensure exhibitors, speakers, attendees, customers, and venue and contractor employees are safe.
The association is now recommending governments provide a clear timetable on when the business events industry can restart, factoring in the planning cycle for exhibitions and events, which is of “paramount importance”.
The news comes as ASM Global prepares to launch a new environmental hygiene protocol in response to “evolving guest expectations”, stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Australia, the likes of the International Convention Centre Sydney, Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Darwin Convention Centre and Cairns Convention Centre would be required to implement the new protocol.
‘Don’t confuse a business event with a mass gathering’: CINZ boss calls for exemption
It comes as, across the Tasman, Conventions & Incentives New Zealand (CINZ) called for a similar distinction between mass gatherings and events to be made by the Ardern government.
CINZ chief executive Lisa Hopkins said her organisation is working to ensure a consistent message regarding the distinction between business events and mass gatherings is achieved.
“We know tourism activities, Air New Zealand and regional airlines, as well as venues, hotels and food and beverage outlets will have specific guidelines under alert level two, and these are all part of the mix when it comes to business events,” she said.
“CINZ has been focused on producing safe meetings guidelines which will provide a framework to ensure all aspects of an assembly of people attending a business event have been considered.”
According to the organisation, this includes the use of registration systems to support any “government-based” track and trace capability and new guidelines around meeting set-ups to allow for social distancing.
“These guidelines have been created by the industry for the industry, and we are working in collaboration with EVANZ (Event Venues Association of New Zealand).”
Hopkins said these were currently with the Ministry of Health for final guidance before being distributed.
“We want the government to understand that we take the health and safety of attendees and staff very seriously, and after all the great work which has been done by New Zealanders, we don’t want to move backwards. In fact, we believe we can safely manage indoor business events of up to 500,” Hopkins said.
“All we ask is not to confuse a business event with a mass gathering. One is structured, controlled and managed – the other can be the complete opposite.”
Featured image: iStock/shayneppl