The events industry has seen 20,000 events cancelled or postponed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This represents 50% of all events planned for 2020 according to a recent joint survey by New Zealand’s event associations.
The survey, conducted by the New Zealand Events Association (NZEA), Conventions & Incentives New Zealand (CINZ), Entertainment Venues Association of New Zealand (EVANZ), Entertainment Technology New Zealand (ETNZ) and the New Zealand Promoters Association (NZPA) during the most recent restrictions, spanned the full spectrum of people and organisations who work in the events industry including suppliers, venues, event professionals, local government and charities.
Results show that employers have cut their workforce by 35% from pre-COVID-19 staffing levels. NZEA consider that this is a conservative estimate given the high number of part-time workers, contractors and specialists this industry typically attracts.
Venues too, have been hard hit with many still incurring overhead costs while their bookings dwindle, or completely disappear, into the foreseeable future.
NZEA estimated COVID-19 related financial loss to the events sector over the period of March-August 2020 is in excess of NZ $570 million, says Ségolène de Fontenay, General Manager, New Zealand Events Association. “More than half a billion dollars is a significant number when considering the number of jobs, economic and social benefits events deliver, but also the lost revenue to the country in terms of GST takings and regional contribution.”
Uncertainty is at the heart of the challenges faced by the sector over the coming six months. Uncertainty over future alert levels and the alert level 2 restrictions themselves, were polled as the top two challenges, given most events cannot proceed under the current alert level 2 attendee limits. At number three was the uncertainty from the public resulting in lower event attendance – the public need to be confident an event will go ahead and also confident it is safe to attend. COVID-19 related cancellations are not able to be insured against so financial risk is polled as the fourth most significant challenge, compounded by a lack of certainty from sponsors, local government and funders which was polled as the fifth biggest challenge followed by the logistical impacts of closed borders.
The industry is calling for the Government to address this uncertainty through four pillars of action:
Firstly, survey respondents flag the need for consistency and clarity of language around events that clearly differentiates ‘controlled events’ from ‘social and mass gatherings’. There is currently significant confusion from the public, and even within the industry, over the limits and guidelines for public events at alert level 2, which are notably different to those for social and mass gatherings. For an industry all but decimated by COVID-19, a simple commitment from Government to use concise language around events would make a significant difference to public perception and confidence.
Secondly, the sector is asking the government to work with the events sector to define future guidelines for controlled events. This is an industry built on putting public safety first and developing innovative solutions to complex problems. Events professionals want to be at the table, involved in the discussions that affect their livelihoods.
Thirdly, respondents note the need for certainty for the events sector moving forward when planning ahead is a ‘must-have’ for the industry, unlike a shop or a café that can reopen within 48 hours.
The Prime Minister has stated that future shifts in alert levels will not occur with the speed of August’s shift. This sounds positive for the events sector, but until there is a concrete plan from Government for how future outbreaks and alert level shifts will be managed, the sector is left floundering without a clear path ahead. Whilst the sector agrees that the safety and the wellbeing of New Zealanders are paramount, the announcement of alert level decisions on weekly or fortnightly basis does not provide enough lead time to schedule or reschedule an event resulting in slow ticket sales. Many in the industry are suggesting the Government take an underwriting approach to events given that insurance providers do not cover for COVID-19 cancellation.
Lastly, the industry is seeking targeted support such as a further wage subsidy extension for the event organisers and events suppliers unable to deliver or postpone their events at alert level 2.
“Without these needs addressed,” de Fontenay says, “the Government runs the risk of losing its capability, expertise and its supply chain which have been instrumental in driving investment, economic and social benefits, domestic tourism and delivering on a world class event industry that Kiwis more than ever need within this period of COVID-induced austerity”.
Segolene de Fontenay – New Zealand Events Association (NZEA)
Mobile 027 484 7722, email firstname.lastname@example.org
New Zealand Events Association (NZEA), formerly known as New Zealand Association of Event Professionals, was formed fifteen years ago and now has over 1,000 members. The Association represents the ever-increasing breadth of the New Zealand events industry. Its purpose is to advocate all aspects of events nationally; their economic outcomes and social benefits, and the people who work and volunteer in and around this unique industry in New Zealand.