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Silver lining for events sector

Thursday 14 October 2021
A recent report to Council contained bittersweet news for our events sector – bitter because Covid-19 has taken a heavy economic toll, but sweet because the report shows that the underlying value of our events and celebrations remains strong and ready to rebound.

Data contained in the report shows that events staged or supported by AlburyCity took a hit from the pandemic with their economic value falling by $28.38M, or almost 70%, in 2020/2021.

That’s not surprising, given that lockdowns, restrictions, and border closures made it impossible to successfully stage, plan or promote events, with some of our headline celebrations postponed.

It’s important to note, however, that only a handful of our major drawcard activities were cancelled, with plans already under way to revitalise these events so that they can return even bigger and brighter in our new post-Covid ‘normal’.

It’s also heartening to remember that events are hugely popular with our community and visitors, as seen in data that shows the sector delivered an enormous $40.88M to our economy in 2018-2019 – before the pandemic erupted.

Because of that underlying strength we’re already working to deliver events that were postponed last year, with organisers of major meetings and conferences confirming to us that they’re ready to return to Albury as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Despite the restrictions, we were able to proceed with some important conferences, such as the Inland Rail Conference, which brought 390 delegates to our community in May. The huge success of the Skywhales tour launch at Lavington Sports Ground in April is another example of a major event successfully delivered in a difficult environment.

We’ve also seen the resilience in the sector during brief easing periods during the pandemics, with our community showing an enthusiasm for attending events when it’s safe to do so. It’s encouraging to note that the ongoing interest continues, and it provides hope that activity will bounce back as restrictions continue to ease.

Unfortunately, several major events planned for the second half of this year have had to be postponed because restrictions have made it difficult to plan and deliver large-scale activities in such an uncertain environment.

Our very popular Gardenesque festival was among those that had to be cancelled this year but, on the plus-side, our Events Team and event partners are brimming with enthusiasm for the return of Gardenesque next year. It’s an event that attracted enormous support in its first year and we’re already planning to make it even bigger and better when circumstances allow.

The family favourite, Carols by Candlelight, has also been called off this year. We know how much our community loves Carols, so the decision was a tough one, but in the interests of public safety, we had no choice but to cancel, while planning for a very special Christmas celebration in 2022.

Sometimes opportunity springs from adversity and in these challenging times we need to be agile in finding ways to celebrate with our community and support our businesses. As a result, we’ll stage a series of family-based events over the festive season, in conjunction with the return of Christmas in Our Heart, with a dazzling light show to once again provide a spectacle for visitors to the CBD while also encouraging people to support local businesses.

We’re continuing to work closely with groups that had to postpone their planned visits this year and the feedback we’re receiving is that they can’t wait to return to Albury, with high hopes of visiting us next year.

We’re beginning the rebuilding phase with a series of small steps, such as the re-opening of our community bakes at the wood-fired ovens and the return of Music in the Gardens later this month.

We all hope these events will be the forerunners of better times in the months ahead. We know our community loves events, and that they’re great for the local economy, so as we work through the arrangements that will define public gatherings in the ‘new normal’, we’re excited to be looking ahead to a bright, busy, and entertaining schedule of events and activities for our community and businesses.