Reviewing an Event Cancellation on the Doorstep!
Challenges for events due to the Covid-19 crisis will take some time to be fully realised and quite possibly be long after the return to what may be a renewed normal for the industry. As a full-time event manager, respect is extended to the tough decision made by government for the sake of the health and safety of the community.
March 13, 2020 will be etched in the memory of most event organisers with the announcement that events greater than 500 people would be banned until further notice!
From earlier that day, we were planning the final stages of IGA Taste Great Southern to be staged from 25 March in the Albany, Mount Barker and Denmark localities – a mix of 30 large and small events over an eleven-day period. By the end of the day we were dismantling two of the larger events!
Over the weekend the process commenced to remove them from our planned program. Subsequent decisions by government in the next few days, most notably the social distancing measures led to the complete cancellation of Taste Great Southern for 2020, just a week prior to when we would have been commencing the event. Not quite as dire as the Mandurah Crabfest which cancelled the day before their event, but one which needed to be made, and once made, a process that involved many people and stakeholders.
In reflection of what happened we are glad that the Risk Management Plan proved robust (which now includes an updated and detailed communicable disease section). The decision process to fully cancel happened within a 24-hour period with all critical stakeholders consulted and in agreement. It was a decision that would affect many others.
With more than three quarters of funding either expended or committed there was requirement to ensure that the budget returned as close to a neutral outcome as possible. The long-term financial position, the brand, the organisations and people involved were considered with all decisions.
Initially all ticket holders and participation deposits needed to be refunded, which was completed within good time. The process of negotiating with sponsors, stakeholders, participants, presenters, suppliers and contractors was extremely critical as part of the responsible financial management. This needed to ensure all people and companies were able to manage both the event cancellation and their own commercial obligations. The result has been that Taste Great Southern will be back in 2021!
It ended up being an amazing experience with cooperation and support at all levels and a pleasure to be part of - a tribute to all those involved with Taste Great Southern. The experience I believe is reflected in the community across the board in the current crisis. The support provided may never be paid back in full.
With all the emotions felt over the last few weeks the one thing that will always play on my mind is the fact that after 12 months of planning and preparation the potential economic impact for the region of around $900,000 will never be met – a significant hole in the economy of the Great Southern region.
We can only recommend that given the chance that you support the region to enjoy the wine, food, attractions and hospitality when things open up, hopefully in the near future.