Events Industry Lessons From the GFC Will Be Critical in COVID-19 Recovery

Events-related businesses in Australia’s regional areas will be in for a MUCH tougher time than their metro cousins if what played out post GFC occurs again after COVID-19.

Back in the late 2000s during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and for a few years thereafter I sat on numerous national and state events industry Boards and Councils, such as Meetings & Events Australia and what was then called the International Special Events Society (now ILEA). This gave me a valuable and sometimes gut-wrenching understanding of how that global economic catastrophe affected private-sector businesses in this industry.

I’m one of the lucky ones. My company survived thanks to a multi-prong service approach. Yet like many events businesses, we took a big hit. However, survival was not as common as you might imagine.

An estimated 35 - 40% of events-related businesses closed their doors* for good in the immediate post-GFC period.

What those statistics did not reveal unless you dug deep was the locations that suffered the greatest closures – regional events businesses took the brunt of the hit.

There were two reasons why regional businesses took the biggest hit:

  1. Many national associations and corporates began alternating their annual business events, such as conferences and awards nights, between Sydney and Melbourne, with Brisbane or Adelaide sometimes included in the rotation. These cities were chosen because the hosts knew it was where they had the greatest probability of attracting the largest number of delegates and attendees.

  2. Special and sporting events also chose the big metropolitan cities, with organisers understanding that consumer confidence reflected business confidence and so most people would not travel away from their home to attend an event.

So many metropolitan events-related busines