Parliamentary inquiry into impact of COVID-19 on Victorian events sector calls for further State Government support
A parliamentary inquiry into the impact of the pandemic upon Victoria’s tourism and events sector has been released, calling for further assistance from the State Government to help keep the industry afloat.
The Inquiry Into The Impact Of The COVID-19 Pandemic On The Tourism & Events Sectors report collates a wide range of responses from industry professionals and experts within both sectors, sharing their experiences and the extent of financial damage wreaked upon their businesses by the pandemic.
The report begins its findings by revealing that Victoria’s pre-COVID commercial events industry generated an economic benefit of $2.5 billion, contributed 3,350 jobs and attracted 6.9 million visitors annually.
By early 2021, however, it was reported that the total income of the sector from April – December 2020 had dropped by 85%, with 94% of companies within the industry being dependent on JobKeeper payments.
Further to that, freelancers and contractors within the sector had experienced an 89% decrease in income, with 77% having to find work outside their industry.
Of all industry workers surveyed, only 27% who were working in the sector prior to the pandemic had remained in full-time roles, while up to 35% of previous employees had changed industries entirely.
Following the end of JobKeeper, 43% of companies reported that they would need to lay off staff to stay afloat.
A further 40% of companies hinted at the possibility of closing their business, with the report recommending that the Victorian Government “advocate to the Commonwealth Government for the resumption of the JobKeeper Payment scheme, or a similar form of wage subsidy, for industries that continue to face significant COVID-19 restrictions on their business and employment activity, such as the events sector”.
The report also notes that Victoria’s events industry had been impacted more severely than any other in Australia, noting that last year’s extended lockdown and density restrictions “allowed the event industries in other states to recover faster than in Victoria, which could have long-term ramifications for the sector’s competitiveness”.
Other key findings throughout the report claim that many events businesses do not feel represented by or cannot afford to join industry bodies, with some organisers noting that professional sporting events are treated more favourably in regards to density quotients.
The report also recommends the Victorian Government provide ongoing, targeted mental health support for those working within the events sector, noting that the inability to obtain insurance against COVID-19 is a large barrier to the recovery of the sector.
“Financial losses in the events sector have caused many business owners and workers great personal stress,” the report reads.
“The mental health toll of the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing and the Victorian Government should continue to provide necessary support for those who need it.”
Prefacing the report, inquiry chair Enver Erdogan said that Victoria’s tourism and events sector had been devastated by the impact of the pandemic, noting the significant challenges facing Melbourne as it aims to recover from the long-term damage of lockdowns.
“The Government-led effort to keep the public safe during 2020 meant making significant sacrifices, particularly for those in the tourism and events sectors,” Erdogan said.
“Fortunately, the tourism sector in Victoria began seeing the green shoots of recovery at the beginning of 2021, although it must be noted that this recovery is not uniform across the whole state, with Melbourne still facing significant challenges due to the ongoing effect of border closures and lockdowns.
“Unfortunately, the events sector is taking longer to recover. Victoria has long been the events capital of Australia. A remarkable range of skilled operators and technicians help our economy stay strong and bring joy, not just to Victorians but, as the Committee learnt, to people across the world.
“Just how important events are to us can be measured by how much we have missed them in our lives.”
The report will now be presented to Victorian Parliament, with the State Government being granted six months to respond to the findings and outline possible actions it can take.