Events sector cries for targeted fund, insurance scheme as COVID-19 leaves industry 'significantly jeopardised'

The events sector is pleading for more Government support after a new survey showed the majority of businesses in the industry are suffering considerable financial impacts as a result of COVID-19.

The New Zealand Events Association (NZEA) says the events sector is likely to be the worst-affected industry in the country, as many events can realistically only take place at alert level 1.

It points to the results of a recent survey showing 55 percent of businesses had experienced 'considerable' financial impact due to the pandemic, with another 23 percent reporting it'd had a 'moderate' impact.

"The organisations that were willing to share their financial impact reported losses of up to $2 million each, with an average loss of $167,000 per organisation and total losses of $17.5 million," spokesperson Ségolène de Fontenay said.

"This represents just a small portion of the industry and considering the significant size of the event sector, the total financial impact will undoubtedly be many orders of magnitude higher.

"Whilst this reflects a big hit to the sector, should higher alert levels remain then the impact will only worsen as we move into spring and summer, traditionally the busiest time for events."

The NZEA says the uncertainty is causing event professionals to leave the sector and creating a skills shortage, warning the viability of the industry is now "significantly jeopardised".

"Event professionals are effectively faced with zero revenue from the very beginning of an outbreak, until the very end - at best," de Fontenay explained.

"The reality is that the ongoing uncertainty, coupled with event planning lead-times, results in impacts well beyond the end of an outbreak."

The NZEA wants a targeted fund for event businesses and its supply chain, proportional to the decline in revenue due to COVID-19-cancelled events when compared to pre-COVID-19 turnover.

It also requests the Government backs an insurance scheme that would see it underwrite events for $50 million, to provide a safety net for events professionals from COVID-19-related impacts.

"This in return would ensure events a key driver of economic and regional development as well as a significant contributor to tourism at all levels, with one-third of domestic tourism driven by people attending events."

In addition, the NZEA wants more tools added to the 'event toolbox', such as rapid COVID-19 testing, and an improved managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) booking system that would enable the long-term planning needed to secure international talent.

"Without clear and concrete measures in place ahead of the peak events season, 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."