The Sydney we know and love is roaring back to life. Vaccinated people can now get out and enjoy cafes, restaurants and pubs – with more outdoor dining areas, thanks to the NSW Government’s Alfresco Restart Package – friends, family and visitors from across the state can now enjoy them with us too. But Sydney has so much more to offer than a nice meal out.
Events are a huge drawcard for Sydney. The roar of the crowd at a festival or a wave going round the ground at a game. The way a band playing a tiny venue can cut through it all, to the economic might of trade shows and international conferences. Events are a magnet for visitors, a big part of what makes Sydney a great place to live, and a springboard for some of our most powerful global ambassadors.
Event organisers have been among the hardest hit by Covid-19 controls. This is a sector that never got a chance to recover after the first wave of lockdowns in 2020. The impact was only compounded in 2021, and there is little sign of respite.
In some ways, we have been a victim of our success in vaccinating the population – we hit 85% vaccination on 25 October, the day we were projected to reach 70%, and now reaching 90% well ahead – the rapid-fire update announcements have left this long-lead industry scrambling to keep up.
Supporting the recovery of this crucial sector is vital to Sydney and the state’s medium- and long-term social, cultural and economic prosperity. To do that, organisers need support to take risks putting on events. Equally consumers need the confidence to attend events. Financial and regulatory support needs to be confirmed and put in place now.
We welcome packages and programs of support already announced by the NSW Government, including Stay & Rediscover and Dine & Discover vouchers, the CBDs Revitalisation program, the Rescue and Restart program and the Festival Relaunch package, as well as proposed changes to the Codes SEPP – the ‘Fun SEPP’ – currently on exhibition. However, there is more that can and should be done.
In this piece, we outline the importance of the events sector to Sydney and the huge pressure it faces. We make six key recommendations to support its reopening and recovery.
In preparing this paper, we consulted representatives of event organisers and touring companies, sporting codes, cultural institutions, hotels and hospitality businesses, and government, including small and large organisations representing operations across Greater Sydney.