Events like MEETINGS need a stable environment to operate, says BEIA. Image: BEIA
The hard-hit events sector is desperate for a year in which it has the ability to operate without interruption, according to the Business Events Industry Association.
Chief executive Lisa Hopkins told the Ticker that after a year of changing Covid-19 rules thwarting activity in the sector, the “key thing for 2021 is consistency”.
“A year of certainty which gives us the ability to operate without interruption is what we need. The sector is very vulnerable to a community outbreak. When the Auckland community outbreak occurred last year, events cancelled even though it was ok for them to continue. We need confidence in the market.”
“At the end of last year Tourism New Zealand released a survey which found that 97% of those surveyed had every intention of holding a business event this year – my hope is that they go ahead and can do so without feeling concerned.”
It is consistency of business that will stave off any further distress in the market in 2021 too, according to Hopkins.
“If organisations have restructured their business and their staff last year, they will know they can get through this year” operating within the status quo, Hopkins said.
Her greatest concern – more than prospective business distress in 2021 – is the current complacency in the use of the Covid app that would thwart effective track and trace measures should there be another outbreak.
“Low use of the Covid app frightens me more than anything else. The moment we get a breach it will be a huge problem, and any sign of confidence being taken out of the industry, then there will be trouble.”
Priorities for Hopkins for the year included developing a “real partnership” with government.
“I have met with [tourism minister Stuart Nash] as part of a small industry group, but I look forward to having a one-on-one. What I am looking for a real partnership. I felt in many ways that we were on the fringe, but we have demonstrated that we are an important component for tourism and economic development.
“I want to be sure government officials and the minister view us as a trusted partner and see that we bring something to the table in supporting the recovery. We are so critical to the New Zealand recovery and so critical to regional development.”
Financial support would also be on the agenda in any government meeting, Hopkins said.
“We are in a very vunerable situation – we were the first sector to but shut down after cruise, and very vunerable to community outbreak.”
A second priority for 2021 is to “cover off readiness” for when international travel does return, and Hopkins’ hope is for a “very methodical” approach – starting with one state in Australia for example.
“Quarantine is a complete deterrent. We cannot go ahead as an industry while the 14-day quarantine requirement is in place. What we would like government to focus on is how we can start moving forward with Australia. If we can just start, that will be a huge bonus for an industry.”
“It is all very well to focus on the domestic market – and we are very grateful for the support of New Zealanders who continue to meet – but we need to be ready for when the international market comes back.
“The industry has changed to not just a hybrid model, but to omnichannel so events now might be digital, virtual, online and in person or a combination of all those things. We need to be ready for that – we need to be upskilled, trained and prepared for when borders re-open.”
Hopkins added that New Zealand was at the top of many people’s list when borders open, with a huge amount of interest coming from Australia and Asia.
This year would see the return of the sector’s own key events, including MEETINGS, which would take place in Auckland on Wednesday 2 and Thursday 3 June, and the 2021 BEIA conference which will be held in Napier in October.
The industry’s data programme, which has been transitioning from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment to private supplier Fresh Info, in partnership with the Regional Tourism New Zealand, should also make a return this year as BEIA continued with its Business Events Data Project.
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