Business events contribute more than $35 billion each year to the Australian economy, says the EEAA.

Domestic business events and ticketed conferences of up to 100 people have been authorised to resume by the New Zealand government, on the proviso of social distancing and contact tracing, says Conventions & Incentives New Zealand (CINZ).

The move marks the next step towards a semblance of normality in the country and follows the resumption this week of domestic leisure and business travel and for the overall economy to begin its long recovery process.

According to new guidelines, events taking place adhering to the attendance cap must see all delegates seated with physical distancing, high standards of hygiene with all food, drink and hospitality also meeting provisional standards. New Zealand is currently at Level 2 of 4 in its lockdown protocols, with existing cap levels due to be reviewed again later this month ahead of a further potential wind-back to full social freedom.

CINZ Chief Executive, Lisa Hopkins, said the industry welcomed the clarity from the government and affirmed its stance that business events should be viewed differently to social gatherings.

“We understand the cap on numbers is set by the Ministry of Health based on the ability of public health to be managed in the case of an outbreak, including contact tracing, isolation and critical care facilities,” she said.

Theatre-style events would require a seat remain vacant between attendees.

Hopkins acknowledged the “exponential” rise in risk which comes from any further relaxation of restrictions but that New Zealanders were eager to work with event organisers to continue to stamp out COVID-19.

“Keeping numbers low, for now, will help New Zealand be able to respond swiftly and effectively and possibly prevent an increase in restrictions by doing so.

“From here, the cap may increase in phases, although we don’t have any certainty around if or when these phases might begin, which of course makes planning extremely difficult,” Hopkins added.

Across the ditch in Australia, the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia (EEAA) has urged federal and state governments to follow New Zealand’s lead by setting a clear distinction between business events and large social gatherings.

EEAA Chief Executive, Claudia Sagripanti

EEAA Chief Executive, Claudia Sagripanti, said it was critical that all levels of government understood the capability of the sector to operate under and maintain ‘bio-safe’ principles and put in place measures to adhere to physical distancing requirements.

Sagripanti said the industry was hoping for an August resumption of events but that a clear indication from governments was needed now to allow for planning to begin.

“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.”