COVID puts Sexpo and the Tattoo Expo on brink of collapse
They inject as much as $15 million a year into the Australian economy, but organisers are warning major sex and tattoo shows may not survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
The business behind Sexpo and the Tattoo Expo said the events face collapse amid continued sudden lockdowns and border closures, while there are also concerns for the MindBodySpirit Festival, the Home Show, and OZ Comic-Con.
Operators claim the industry has been largely ignored by state governments, and have decried moves to impose lockdowns or border restrictions at a moment's notice.
They said such decisions put them at risk of being wiped off the events calendar, and also hurt the business owners that rely on the shows to generate cash and build brand recognition.
AEG director Kevin Mack claimed the Australian Tattoo Expo delivered about $10 million per year through patron spend into the hands of Australian artists and small businesses.
At Sexpo, which also runs across three days and moves across the country, the figure could be between $3-$5 million at the Melbourne event alone.
But Mr Mack said the events were on the brink of collapse after the coronavirus pandemic forced their cancellation last year.
Asked by News Corp Australia if more cancellations or reschedules could see the Sexpo and the Australian Tattoo Expo axed, Mr Mack said: "Absolutely yes, we have faced so many challenges to have survived this far."
Mr Mack, who this year has paired back his events schedule, said the last time his company had turned a profit was in 2019.
"Since then we have had to refund up to 90 per cent of our shows and ticket sales and offer credits due to exhausting our business cash flow in order to refund shows we had already invested in," he said.
He said the JobKeeper wage subsidy, which is due to end in late March, had helped keep AEG staff employed during the tumultuous period. But if surprise lockdowns and border closures that disrupt business were to continue, it needed to be extended.
He acknowledged the health and safety of Australians should come first, but said state governments needed to respond to COVID-19 outbreaks and low case numbers in a way that didn't shut down their economies.
Exhibitions & Events Australia CEO Jane Turner said she feared if such drastic responses were to continue her shows - which include the MindBodySpirit Festival and the Home Show - could disappear.
"It is a fear, which is why I am running my events even at a loss, because it's important to keep the events industry alive … and to keep the brands of the events alive so they don't become redundant," Ms Turner said.
"That is why some organisers would have this fear, because you're only as good as your last event and sooner or later, no one is going to remember it."
Ms Turner sad it is currently difficult to get exhibitors to invest in an event because "we cannot give them any guarantees it will run".
Expertise Events CEO founder Gary Fitz-Roy, who's company runs OZ Comic-Con and the Craft & Quilt fair among others, said other states should consider taking an approach similar to NSW in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak that would cause less disruption for business.
"NSW isolate the problem, they deal with the problem and they treat the problem. The other states … have been taking this broad brush approach."
Originally published as COVID put Sexpo, Tattoo Expo on brink of collapse