Business events sector expects short-term pain


The recent bushfires appear to have had minimal impact on Canberra’s business event and conference sector; however, the COVID-19 outbreak is proving another hurdle.

business event at regatta point
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a greater impact on Canberra’s business event and conference sector than the recent bushfires. Photo: Kerrie Brewer.

According to Canberra Convention Bureau CEO Michael Matthews, while the bushfires had an impact, it was limited as they occurred during a quieter time for business events.

“If that had happened in October, November or March, April, May, it would have had a pretty devastating effect,” he said.

The Canberra Convention Bureau recently held their Canberra on Show event – an annual trade show open to local and interstate meeting planners. At the time, Mr Matthews said was good timing “because we’ve got a bit of a platform to show people for themselves that things are back to normal”.

“The benefit of what we do is that our business that we attract is long term. So we are working on business events as far out as 2032. We are convincing them now to make a decision that will impact future visitation.”

However, given the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation across Australia and the world, and the announcement of restrictions on groups of 500-plus, Mr Matthews said it will force clients to reassess their plans with conferences in the short term.

“We anticipate that given the example set in other countries, that this number [500+] will be soon revised down,” he said. “We’re working with our clients to ensure that meetings slated for later in the year are not cancelled at this early stage. Our members are committed to helping clients reschedule their events in Canberra once the crisis is over.”

Mr Matthews said “business events in our destination are important to our economy and our research and innovation community”.

“Our business events community has operated under very challenging business conditions so far in 2020. We’ve seen in previous crises of scale, like 9/11, SARS and the GFC, that meetings business – the need to for people to meet in person to solve their common problems – is one of the first sectors to bounce back.”