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UPDATED Business Events Grant program: what you need to know

UPDATE: The Federal Government has extended the Business Events Grant program, and made changes to the program guidelines opening relief up to a wider range of exhibitors, sponsors, delegates and event owners. 

The Business Events Grant program forms part of the Australian Government’s Relief and Recovery Fund providing assistance to sectors, regions, and communities affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Under the Business Events Grants program, Australian businesses exhibiting at an approved business meeting, convention, conference, and incentives event will be able to apply for upfront grants to cover up to 50 per cent of their costs.

Grants are to be paid upfront to help with the costs of businesses attending pre-approved business events, for example, exhibition space hire, the design and manufacture of displays, travel and accommodation. 

The Government has made the following changes to the program: 

  • Reduced the minimum grant amount to $5,000 (from $10,000) to allow smaller businesses the opportunity to apply.
  • Extended the support for events scheduled through to 31 March 2022 to allow events that were postponed early 2021 the opportunity to benefit from the program.
  • Increased the number of delegates covered by the grant.
  • Increased the sponsorship cap.
  • Expanded the priority sectors.

New key dates include: 

  • Grant applications extended to 30 June 2021. 
  • Expression of Interest for event owners to have their event included on the Schedule of Approved Business Events will re-open early April. More information is here
  • Updated version of program guidelines and eligibility criteria for the Schedule of Approved Business Events will be published by end of March. More information is here

Business events important to boost the economy 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia’s $36 billion business events sector had virtually ground to a halt during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Getting business events up and running again will be a critical part of the recovery of our tourism industry, but will also have huge flow-on effects through the entire economy,” Prime Minister Morrison said.

“This is not only about supporting events companies and venues, but will also be a shot in the arm for a broad range of businesses and the people they employ – whether it’s accommodation providers, those who build exhibitions, caterers, cleaners or those offering audio-visual services.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the program would provide opportunities and encourage businesses from regional Australia to attend events in their own backyard.

“With many international trade shows out of reach for the time being, making it less expensive and easier for regional businesses to attend events in Australia will also present new opportunities to connect with and secure new customers,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

“Business events encourage domestic travel and the more events we can lock in, the more people we can get flowing through our airports, on planes and staying in hotels around the country.”

In 2019, over 480,000 business events were held in Australia and over 43 million people attended a business event in the form of a meeting, convention, exhibition or incentive event. 

BECA to work with Government 

The Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) has welcomed the extension of the grants program, stating that border uncertainty has meant that many event owners still feel there is too much risk to plan and book future business events. 

BECA said that it recently completed a survey of business owners, freelancers and contractors, which clearly demonstrates the need for more targeted support for the business events sector to ensure it do not lose its critical core capacity and capability. 

Key findings from the survey highlight that:

  1. While 87 per cent of business events businesses accessed the initial JobKeeper program to September 2020, reliance on the wage subsidy has only decreased slightly to 85 per cent for the January to March 2021 period.
  2. With JobKeeper scheduled to conclude on 28 March, 47 per cent of businesses will make more staff redundant, and without further government support, 23 per cent of businesses will close.
  3. 61 per cent of business events businesses saw a 75-100 per cent reduction in turnover for 2020 compared to 2019, while 44 per cent forecast the same result for the 6-months to June 2021.
  4. The business events industry has also seen a shift in confidence with 50 per cent now believing they will return to pre-crisis levels in ‘3-5 years’ – a significant 10 per cent shift from the ‘1-2 year’ response in July 2020.

Dr Vanessa Findlay, BECA Chair, stated: “The business events industry is clearly a sector that requires targeted assistance to enable its recovery. Given the challenges we are facing with operating restrictions, border closures, consumer confidence to travel to participate in events and the lead time required to plan and deliver events, our research shows the industry is still 9-12 months away from any significant return to business operations.”

“Targeted support is critical to sustain valuable businesses and event professionals in the interim period as is the timing and implementation of this support. We consider the [above] announcement…as a starting point of what is required by Government to support the sector and look forward to continuing our consultation with the Government to develop targeted solutions to achieve these outcomes as a priority.”

For more information, visit Austrade’s Business Events Grant Program page

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