Hotel ballrooms, conference and meeting spaces across NSW will next week have their restricted capacity levels doubled as the state continues to ease restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From 28 September, venues will be allowed a limit of 300 people or one person per four square-metres – whichever is the lesser – up from the current 150.
Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, said allowing more people into functions and business events was key to restarting the NSW visitor economy.
“It’s vitally important for the business community to get back on its feet by being able to collaborate and share ideas in person once again,” Minister Ayres said.
“This will help people get back to work and back to doing more of the things they love to do in NSW as our COVID-19 recovery plan continues to take shape.”
Tourism Accommodation Australia National CEO, Michael Johnson, labelled the move an “early Christmas present” on behalf of larger hotels, saying it was the first step in providing greater certainty for the sector in NSW, especially the Sydney CBD.
“While the corporate event market will continue to struggle as long as border closures remain, the chance to now have up to 300 people at functions is a boost for our larger hotels which have that capacity,” Johnson said.
“This is especially good news in the lead up to Christmas and accommodation providers are hopeful many events previously on hold will now get the green light.”
Accommodation Association CEO, Dean Long, said the capacity lift sent a strong message of confidence to businesses, education providers and the wider public that the state was once again open for business.
“The successive measures to open up corporate events and functions over the past few weeks mean that hotels can now proactively capitalise on the traditional summer party season,” Long said.
“The lifting of the caps improves the viability of these events, however, for restaurants and functions to be profitable, the four square-metre requirement must be halved.”
InterContinental Hotels Group Managing Director, Australasia and Japan, Leanne Harwood, welcomed the announcement and said the industry has shown that events can be done safely.
“MICE is such vital business for hotels and, while our properties have been truly innovative in finding different ways to hold smaller or virtual events within the restrictions, the impact on revenues has been significant,” she said.
“Now we just need those border open so people can start planning and booking!”
Accor Pacific Chief Operating Officer, Simon McGrath, added that the announcement was a significant step forward for the economy and for tourism overall.
“It signals a welcome return of people gathering together for celebratory occasions and for business events, as confidence grows people will start to network again and reconnect,” McGrath said.