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Calls cross the Tasman: ‘Business events are not mass gatherings!’

May 11, 2020 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Business events groups on each side of the Tasman are pleading with their respective governments to make a clear distinction between business events and mass gatherings – so the vital meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions market can get underway again.

Unlike big sporting events, business events are relatively easy to control and monitor, to ensure safe distancing is carried out, for instance.

Similar but separate calls have been made in recent days by the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia (EEAA) and by Conventions & Incentives New Zealand (CINZ). EEAA is calling for a relaxation of restrictions between Australian states, and CINZ is calling for an easing of restrictions on gatherings in New Zealand, to make allowances for the needs of business events.

Eventually, such first steps will usher in the prospect of reopening travel between Australia and New Zealand, without the need for 14-day quarantine. This would include business-events travel and would be of great benefit to both countries. Obviously, it can happen only when medical authorities on both sides of the Tasman are convinced the time is right. The prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand have already agreed that when international travel again becomes possible, flying to each other’s countries is how it will start. Both countries are world leaders in the field of keeping Covid-19 under control.

CINZ chief executive Lisa Hopkins

IN AUSTRALIA, EEAA HAS MADE AN URGENT CALL to the country’s federal and state governments to distinguish exhibitions and business events from mass gatherings so domestic events can restart as soon as possible in the Australian market.

EEAA chief executive, Claudia Sagripanti, said it was vitally important that governments at both the federal and state level, understood that the business events industry could operate under a controlled set of ‘bio-safe’ principles and should not be subject to the ‘mass gathering’ restrictions that apply to other large scale public events such as sporting fixtures, festivals large-scale consumer events.

“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.

“The business events industry, which includes exhibitions, conferences and business meetings contributes more than AUD 35 billion to the national economy, with another AUD 17.2 billion in value add and employs over 229,000 people across a range of sectors and trades. The re-opening of this important sector will support the Government’s objective to implement work safe guidelines to get Australian’s back to work. It is of vital importance to ensure that Governments understand the role business events plays in restarting the economy.”

The EEAA, together with the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA)along with other major industry associations including the Venue Management Association (VMA) is developing Safety and hygiene principles for the Government and Health officials and the business events community. The principles will support stringent public health guidelines to manage exhibitions, conferences, meetings and events and ensure exhibitors, speakers, attendees, customers and venue/contractor employees are safe.

The EEAA is recommending that Governments provide a clear timetable on when the business events industry can restart. The planning cycle for exhibitions and events is of paramount importance require adequate lead-time for planning and implementation.

“The sector needs support now with a clear timetable on when we can run events – August/September and the last quarter of 2020 is vital to recovery, but the industry needs a confirmed date to commence planning,” Sagripanti said.

EEAA chief executive Claudia Sagripanti

“An August restart allows government and the health authorities further time to ensure the state’s COVID numbers continue to decrease and stabilise and to enable an agreed Bio-Safe environment for our controlled and organised events where the business community comes to do business.”

The EEAA has been in talks with all state governments and the chief medical officers in each state this week to negotiate the restart terms for the exhibitions and business events industry.

The Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) has lobbied at the Federal level to ensure a consistent and clear message regarding the distinction between business events and mass gatherings is achieved nationally.

The business events sector contributes more than AUD 35 billion in GDP, runs over 430,000 events annually and employs more than 229,000 people. The sector is a major contributor to Australia both financially and for its powerful enabling ability to deliver practical business outcomes,” Sagripanti said.

IN NEW ZEALAND, CINZ IS URGING THAT COUNTRY’S GOVERNMENT to act similarly and make a clear distinction between business events and mass gatherings “to give domestic events a solid platform to restart under Alert Level 2”. (An explanation of how New Zealand’s Covid-19 alert levels work can be found here.)

CINZ chief executive Lisa Hopkins says it is crucial the New Zealand government understands that the business events industry can operate under a controlled set of ‘bio-safe’ principles and should not be subject to mass gathering restrictions.

“The business events industry runs highly organised events where we can trace visitors, delegates, speakers and exhibitors as well as monitor, track and put in place a range of measures that ensure these events comply with government measures on hygiene and physical distancing,” Hopkins says.

CINZ is working to ensure a consistent message regarding the distinction between business events and mass gatherings is achieved.

As Hopkins points out: “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 2, and these are all part of the mix when it comes to business events.

“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,” she says.

“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). They are 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.

“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.”

Edited by Peter Needham

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