Given the impact of COVID-19 over the past 15 months on all areas of the leisure industry, the move towards industry recovery is surely happening too slowly.
Ongoing outbreaks and the all-to-frequent reimposition of lockdowns (particularly in Victoria) and the fears of new lockdowns and restrictions on activity make it very different for consumers and most sectors to plan.
In terms of public health, Australia and New Zealand are widely acknowledged to have handled last year’s outbreaks of the Coronavirus pandemic well. Helped by geographical isolations and the geography of being large islands, overall deaths (and deaths per million) were among the lowest in the world.
By contrast, both country’s vaccination programs (and particularly Australia’s) has been slow to roll out and inconsistent, leaving the nation behind other leading economies in approaching a full vaccinated population.
And assuming vaccinations are effective against all COVID strains, it is the bulk of population being vaccinated that will drive a full reopening of the economy and consumer confidence to return to their pre-Coronavirus patterns of behaviour.
As Sally McManus, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, explained last week, the nation’s health and economic recovery won’t be secured while the vaccine rollout stalls.
Speaking over concerns about the speed of the vaccines rollout and the effectiveness of the Federal Government’s communication campaign, McManus told the ABC “we will never be in a position where we can have certainty about the future ... until we speed up this vaccines rollout.
“At the moment it’s extremely slow and it’s one of the main things that will hold us back in terms of jobs and in terms of recovery.”
Getting the Information Out
As of 7th June, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) introduced arrangements to facilitate the communication of information about approved COVID-19 vaccines which permit health professionals, businesses and media outlets to develop their own materials about TGA-approved COVID-19 vaccines.
They also permit the offer of a range of rewards to people who have been fully vaccinated under the Government's COVID-19 vaccination program.
Surely being proactive in this is a key role for leading employers and industry bodies?
Commenting on this, Wayne Middleton, a leading risk management consultant and Managing Director of Reliance Risk, explained “the TGA’s announcement provides more clarity for Australian businesses in communicating and potentially incentivising their staff to get vaccinated.
“As has become increasingly apparent following Melbourne’s most recent outbreak and lockdown, that the whole country is still potentially vulnerable to outbreaks. Mass gatherings will always be one of the most affected industries until a high percentage of the entire population is vaccinated.
“Expert advice suggests that we have a way to go before global infection rates are under control, and as the virus continues to mutate, and in some cases become more transmissible amongst some populations we thought were previously unaffected, such as children; large scale vaccination appears the only pathway to realistically navigate out of this.
“Vaccination Policy is complicated in that it raises many legal, moral and social issues. The TGA’s announcement, however, helps businesses to promote its importance to its people and share the public information messaging.”
Last week, the European Union officials signed into law digital COVID-19 passports, the first of its kind, allowing the 27 nation members to open their borders for travel during the peak holiday months of the Northern Hemisphere summer. The certificates will allow citizens to prove their vaccination status, if they've previously been infected with the virus or had a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test 72 hours before travelling.
The World Travel and Tourism Council welcomed this, saying initiatives of this type could unlock the door to international travel
WTTC Senior Vice President, Virginia Messina advised that the “WTTC welcomes the agreement reached on the EU Digital COVID Certificate, which has now been given the green light by all member states.
“This new certificate could be the key to unlocking international travel and save thousands of businesses and millions of jobs across Europe and beyond.”
Dr Taleb Rifai, Chairman of the International Tourism and Investment Conference (ITIC) and former Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), has gone further, saying international travel will not return to any semblance of normality until the whole world is vaccinated against Covid-19
Speaking at the Arabian Travel Market in the middle of last month, Dr Rifai stated "countries can’t keep doing their own thing on their own. It’s not going to work.
“It will take the world five years for 70% of the population to be vaccinated. No travel is going to start until the whole world is vaccinated. You cannot have Europe vaccinated and Africa not vaccinated.
“It’s a matter of how equal we are. The new world is going to be much more equitable, a much more sustainable world for sure.”
Back in March, Qantas Chief Executive, Alan Joyce suggested that governments around the world will insist on Coronavirus vaccines for travellers when international borders reopen.
In an interview with the BBC, Joyce advised that "governments are going to insist" on vaccines for international travellers as "a condition of entry".
And with Coronavirus vaccines seen as crucial to reviving an industry that saw worldwide passenger numbers fall 75.6% last year, Joyce suggested that if governments don’t demand vaccinations airlines should enforce its own policy.
Vaccinations for entertainment and leisure
Beyond this, vaccines may also aapply to domestic and non-flying related activities.
For example, Bruce Springsteen has laid down strict rules for attendees of Springsteen on Broadway, which reopens on 26th June at the St James theatre.
For admission, ticketholders must be able to prove they have received COVID-19 vaccinations - although this does not include the AstraZeneca-Oxford jab which has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (but is popular in Canada, the UK and other countries).
Similarly, fans hoping to attend live events in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 since 6th June.
And while theatre productions in Sydney and Brisbane have led the world in venue reopenings and COVIDSafe patron access, the same does not apply to live music.
In January, when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed that four million doses of the Coronavirus vaccine would be administered by 31st March – a target which it has fallen well short of – live music operators began to plan for activity from the second quarter of the year.
Such planning was massively impacted when Bluesfest was shut down – with just one days notice – prior to the Easter weekend, sending a warning to every single live music event in Australia that it would be at risk of sudden shut down if Coronavirus cases in area were deemed a risk.
While Bluesfest has been rescheduled, massive pressure applies when planned international tours are considered.
With major international acts seen as key to filling Australia’s larger venues, TEG Chief Executive Geoff Jones has backed the return of major tours in the final quarter of 2021, already selling around 400,000 tickets for Guns N’ Roses, Kiss and Keith Urban across 20 or so performances in Australia and New Zealand in the final quarter of 2021.
Speaking recently he advised that “my worst nightmare is that something happens and we can’t do all the dates”.
Explaining that TEG is “trying extraordinarily hard” to work with all states to ensure the concerts go ahead, Jones explained that for each of the tours they would be bringing smaller touring parties, all involved would be vaccinated, they would arrive and travel across Australia by private jet and that they would be subject to a regime of testing with all involved being tested every second day.
When looking back at when the tours were first planned at the end of last year, he recalled “we thought there’d be a sense of normality by then”, adding that he expects a huge spike in Australians getting vaccinated as the year progresses, adding “with that will come confidence in public health officials having more leniency over people coming in from overseas who have been vaccinated as well.”
For information on the Therapeutic Goods Administration's advice on communicating about COVID-19 vaccines got to www.tga.gov.au/communicating-about-covid-19-vaccines
Views expressed in this article are those of the individuals and bodies quoted and the author. If you wish to add to this, or present a different viewpoint, email Australasian Leisure Management Editor, Karen Sweaney at: firstname.lastname@example.org
15th June 2021 - Tripadvisor research reveals COVID-19 vaccines driving global tourism demand
16th June 2021 - COVID-19 lockdown sees AFL move Melbourne fixtures to Tasmania
11th June 2021 - National Aquatic Industry Committee advises on conditions for swim teachers, lifeguards and instructors affected by Victoria’s lockdowns
9th June 2021 - Lockdown easing allows brothels to reopen in regional Victoria under same terms as gyms, aquatic facilities and entertainment venues
9th June 2021 - Adventure Tourism Victoria denounces partial lifting of lockdown
8th June 2021 - Victoria’s Chief Health Officer warns of no large crowds when Melbourne lockdown ends
7th June 2021 - Victorian Government announces $32 million support package for lockdown impacted tourism businesses
4th June 2021 - Return of international tours vital for Australia’s entertainment venues and promoters
3rd June 2021 - Victorian lockdown impacts the aquatic industry
2nd June 2021 - Theme park tickets and airline rewards offered as incentives for vaccination uptake
2nd June 2021 - Melbourne’s stage three lockdown to be extended for another week while restrictions to ease in regional Victoria
1st June 2021 - Victorian lockdown leads to fitness industry losses in excess of $10 million
28th May 2021 - Victorian COVID lockdown forces AFL to change weekend fixture plans
27th May 2021 - Victoria Government announces seven-day lockdown
18th May 2021 - WTTC Global Summit highlights how major live corporate events and conferences can be staged safely
27th April 2021 - Australia Government to fast-track COVID-19 vaccines for Olympic team athletes
2nd April 2021 - Bluesfest cancellation to cost more than $10 million in losses
31st March 2021 - COVID-19 case sees NSW Health cancel Byron Bay Bluesfest
30th March 2021 - 70% of Australian casual workers more likely to get COVID-19 vaccine if it’s recommended by employer
22nd March 2021 - Qantas’s Alan Joyce expects governments ‘to insist’ on vaccines for flying
18th March 2021 - A third of global gym members unlikely to return to clubs after COVID vaccine
12th March 2021 - Vaccinations will determine ‘return to normal’ after COVID
6th February 2021 - WTTC says governments should abandon notion of ‘high-risk countries’ and instead focus on ‘high-risk travellers’
28th January 2021 - Frozen the Musical at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre a model for future global performances
10th December 2020 - Australians look forward to introduction of COVID-19 vaccine
30th November 2020 - QPAC opens to 100% capacity audience with Shrek The Musical
20th November 2020 - Pippin opening set to mark return of musical theatre to Australia
19th November 2020 - QPAC announce 2021 program with spaces returning to full capacity
12th November 2020 - ICC Sydney gets approval to increase patron capacity at Aware Super Theatre
11th November 2020 - Art experience promoter slams Governments for not releasing committed arts funding
21st August 2020 - QPAC leads Queensland arts venues in preparing for reopening
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