Vic government launches its own National Business Event Program, offering $25,000 grants for event organisers

Networking at Pause Fest 2020. Photographer: Priscilla Pho.

The Victorian State Government is offering grants of up to $25,000 for business events held in Melbourne, in a bid to encourage interstate travel into the city and get cash running through the events supply chain again.

Administered by the Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB), the National Business Event Program funding initiative is intended to help business organisers cover the costs of hosting an event, with 50% of the funds available upfront, before the event starts.

The cash can be put towards venue hire, accommodation, transport and other costs.

Detailed eligibility criteria for the scheme has not been released, but events must be held in Melbourne before December 2022.

A statement suggests the funding available will be determined by the event duration and the number of delegates — particularly the number of those travelling from other states and territories.

Eligible events are expected to include conferences, exhibitions and trade shows, workshops, seminars, and corporate meetings and group events.

Expressions of interest for the scheme are now open, and applications will open on June 30, 2021.

In a statement, Mary-Anne Thomas, Victoria’s acting Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, said the aim of the program is to “boost our highly competitive global business events sector as the state continues its path of economic recovery”.

Business events, especially those requiring interstate travel, lead to an uptick in accommodation bookings and hospitality spend, supporting businesses across the economy, she added.

MCB chief Julia Swanson also noted that the funding will help give organisers the confidence to plan their business events in Melbourne, helping the sector to “regain momentum and provid[ing] a much needed helping hand”.

“Melbourne has always been an innovator in the events space,” she added.

The announcement from the Victorian state government follows the rollout of the federal government’s own $50 million Business Events Grants Program.

First announced in September 2020, the federal scheme allows business owners to apply for grants of between $10,000 and $250,000 to cover the costs of attending or exhibiting at events.

However, the funding was only available for approved eligible events, and tight eligibility criteria meant the scheme came under fire from event organisers who found themselves excluded.

In order to secure any rebate, businesses must spend at least $20,000, for example. Events were also only eligible if they were held in state capitals, and had 100 or more attendees.

In February this year, Pause Fest founder George Hedon penned an open letter to the government, signed by representatives of 15 other events.

In the letter, Hedon suggested the eligibility criteria posed a threat to the diversity of the Aussie events.

“While not all small and medium events generate international prestige, diversity is essential to a strong and prosperous events industry,” he wrote.

“Without action now, there will be nothing to be proud of in the future.”

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